The debate around woman killer Sandile Mantsoe will go on – long and acrimoniously. The question will be: was the 32-year jail sentence handed down to him for the murder of Karabo Mokoena commensurate with the nature of the crime … or was it shockingly lenient?
In passing sentence, Judge Peet Johnson said Mantsoe was a first offender who had no previous brushes with the law – and it is an acknowledged pillar of our justice system that mercy should be shown to those who have hitherto clean records.
However, Johnson also described Mantsoe as “the devil in disguise” because he murdered Karabo, burnt her body and then heartlessly continued with his life as if nothing had happened.
There are those who will point to Johnson’s comment – and to the principal of “an eye for an eye” – to argue that Mantsoe should have been put away for the rest of his natural life.
There are merits in both sides of the argument – but the long sentence does emphasise that abuse of women is being taking seriously by our upper courts.
Still, the reality is that, further down the legal pyramid – at magistrate’s courts and in police charge offices – women find themselves ignored or actively discouraged when seeking protection from the abusive or violent men in their lives.
The justice system is still dominated by men, most of whom still seem to believe that women are, at best, second-class citizens or, at worst, their property.
That is why so many women are murdered: for having the temerity to leave the men who are making their lives hell.
The men of South Africa should look on Mantsoe not as just a callous murderer, but should also use him as a mirror in which to examine their own attitudes.