07/06/2017 12:16 SAST | Updated 07/06/2017 12:52 SAST

Zwelethu Mthethwa Sentenced To 18 Years In Prison For Murdering Nokuphila Kumalo

Sweat and Sisonke have welcomed this ruling.

Zwelethu Mthethwa.
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Zwelethu Mthethwa.

In April 2013, Zwelethu Mthethwa brutally murdered Nokuphila Kumalo, a sex worker.

Today, those who fought to get justice for her life have finally received it. Judge Patricia Goliath sentenced Mthethwa (57) in the Cape Town high court this morning to 18 years in prison. Organisations have welcomed the sentencing.

"We applaud the court seeing fit to exceed the minimum sentence of 15 years. Judge Goliath stated 'the killing of women will not be tolerated. The killing of sex workers, in particular, will not be tolerated'," reads a joint statement by the Sex Worker Education and Advocacy Taskforce (Sweat) & Sisonke National Movement of Sex Workers in South Africa.

Kholiswa Tyiki, Sisonke's communication and membership officer, said this was a "giant step".

"This is a giant step taken by the judge, which acknowledges that a human being died that night, never mind what profession she chose to be in or how low society treats not only [a] sex worker but women as a whole in South Africa" said Tyiki.

Today is a victory for Kumalo's friends and family, and other women whom the courts fail.

"We are all aware of how the criminal justice fails women on a daily basis and that justice can no longer be found in our courts. However, we are mindful that the conviction and sentencing of Mthethwa is a victory for Nokuphila's family and friends, and we hope that this marks a shift in our courts taking the lives of sex workers more seriously," said Ishtar Lakhani, Sweat advocacy and human rights defence manager.

However, there is still work to be done.

In the statement, Sweat says it is working to monitor other cases like Kumalo's. "There are still an inordinate amount of cases that will never see the inside of the court. It is for these nameless victims that society and the criminal justice system chose to ignore that we will continue to #SayHerName," it says.

Kumalo (23) died of blunt force trauma and was kicked repeatedly next to Mthethwa's Porsche, according to News24. Judge Goliath said the "callousness, cruelty and brutality" of the attack were aggravating factors.

She dismissed Mthethwa's defence claim of memory loss and intoxication as an attempt to deceive and reduce blameworthiness, saying that the CCTV footage that captured the event "clearly shows that the perpetrator was not under the influence".