Heavy punishment for killing a policeman with his own service pistol


The High Court in Mbombela this week sentenced Zanele Mkhonto (30) to 20 years of direct imprisonment for the murder of sergeant. Mandlenkosi Happy Thwala (47), a police officer attached to the KaBokweni police station in Mpumalanga.

Mkhonto pleaded guilty in November last year and was subsequently found guilty of murder.

She told the court that she was in a romantic relationship with Thwala and that they lived together in Gedlembane, Pienaar, from January to July 2022. The couple had an exchange of words on 2 August 2022 and Mkhonto shot Thwala several times in the head with his service pistol while he was sleeping. She then fled the scene with the weapon and Thwala’s vehicle.

On her way to her parents’ house in Masoyi, Mkhonto saw a roadblock and got rid of the murder weapon. Residents found it there and handed it over to the police. At her parents’ house, Mkhonto informed a friend about the events and the police were called. She was arrested and has been behind bars ever since.

State counsel Zwelethu Mata told the court that Mkhonto had shown no remorse and moreover tried to mitigate her actions by telling stories to the court.

Mata told the court that the action was tantamount to domestic violence “and society is waiting with bated breath to see if female defendants are treated with more mercy than male defendants in cases of domestic violence”.

A victim impact report was also submitted to the court. It outlines how Thwala’s death affected his entire family. He was the only member of the family with a proper job and supported his relatives and extended family financially.

In her ruling, acting judge Sheila Msibi described the death of a police officer as a loss for the state and the community as a whole. Law enforcement officers are servants of justice, the judge said.

However, she found that there were enough substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment and Mkhonto was sentenced to 20 years’ direct imprisonment.