Two judges of the North Gauteng High Court set aside the 25-year sentence a Nigel regional magistrate imposed on Elizabeth Mazibuko, 27, for the murder of her young son.
They replaced Mazibuko’s sentence with one of five years imprisonment in terms of Section 276(1)(i) of the Criminal Procedure Act and backdated the sentence to June 2011.
This means that she can be placed on parole after serving a sixth of her jail term.
Mazibuko, an HIV-positive unmarried mother of three children, decided to commit suicide and to kill her son after being chased away by her family because of her HIV status. Her brother told her they wanted nothing to do with her children if anything happened to her.
On the morning of the incident she did not feel well enough to go to work. She felt she was going to die and realised no one would look after her son if she died.
She gave her son yoghurt laced with rat poison and ate some herself. When she realised she and her son were dying she phoned her boyfriend for help.
She woke up in hospital.
Her two other children were taken away by Social Services.
The magistrate who sentenced Mazibuko found that she had committed premeditated murder, but the judges said it was clear that she had acted on the spur of the moment.
They said it was clear that she had taken to decision to end her life and that of her son shortly after she awoke on the day of the incident.
She was manifestly desperate and immediately executed her decision. Having regard to her emotional condition and the manner in which the murder was committed, there were clearly no facts to substantiate the finding that the murder was premeditated, they said.
The judges said it was disconcerting that neither Mazibuko’s attorney nor the presiding magistrate had requested a social worker or probation officer’s report prior to sentencing. They referred to the case of another mother who received a suspended sentence for strangling her two children and trying to commit suicide after being chased out of her home and spending a night in the bush with her children.