An illegal gold panner who was in 2018 sentenced to death for fatally stabbing his wife 27 times following a row with his in-laws over payment of lobola, has approached the Supreme Court challenging his sentence.
Dignity Masvimbo (28) of Winery Compound, Greenvale in Gweru, walked for about 20km to his wife, Oripa Gapare’s family home in Mkoba 14 where he fatally stabbed her 27 times.
Masvimbo stabbed Gapare (22) all over the body while she lay helplessly on the ground, leading to her death in April 2017. He was convicted of murder with actual intent by Bulawayo High Court Judge Justice Nokuthula Moyo on circuit in Gweru.
Masvimbo, through his lawyer Mr Tawanda Tavengwa of Mutuso, Taruvinga and Mhiribidi Legal Practitioners, filed an appeal against sentence at the Supreme Court citing the State as the respondent.
In his grounds of appeal, Masvimbo said Justice Moyo misdirected herself when she failed to consider and give due weight to the mitigatory factors before passing the death sentence.
“The lower court improperly exercised its sentencing discretion resulting in a sentence that induces a sense of shock. The judge gave more weight to factors in aggravation and overlooked the fact that I was a youthful offender who can be rehabilitated by a lengthy prison term,” he argued.
Mr Tavengwa argued that his client acted out of emotional stress and pleaded with the Supreme Court bench to set aside the judgment of the High Court and substitute it with a life imprisonment.
Appearing for the State, Mr Khumbulani Ndlovu opposed the application, arguing that Masvimbo was in full control of his faculties when committed the offence. He argued that there were no sufficient mitigatory factors warranting misdirection on the part of the lower court.
“It is submitted that the judge of the lower court, in my view, judiciously exercised her sentencing discretion when she imposed the death sentence on the appellant. The sentence is neither an irregularity nor misdirection,” said Mr Ndlovu.
He urged the court to dismiss Masvimbo’s appeal, saying it did not warrant consideration for a sentence other than the death penalty.
“The commission of the offence does not comport with youthfulness. The murder was so calculated and callous hence this factor of youthfulness on its own does not constitute a weighty circumstance of a mitigatory nature so as to reduce his moral blameworthiness,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Deputy Chief Justice Elizabeth Gwaunza, sitting with Justices Nicholas Mathonsi and Samuel Kudya during a Supreme Court on circuit in Bulawayo yesterday, said the murder was well planned and executed with precision. She, however, reserved judgement.
According to court papers, Masvimbo and Gapare had separated in October 2016 following a domestic dispute which emanated from his failure to pay lobola. The now deceased moved out of their matrimonial house to stay with her parents in Mkoba 14.
Masvimbo followed her in a bid to make peace but was told by the deceased’s mother that he needed to pay lobola first if he wanted to take back his wife. He failed to pay the lobola and continued to stay at his house.
Six months later at around 5PM, Masvimbo proceeded to the deceased’s residence armed with an Okapi knife. He went inside the house using an unlocked main door and sat on a couch in the lounge. Masvimbo then called Gapare to the lounge and without notice dragged her outside the house and assaulted her.
Gapare called for help and her 91-year-old grandmother Mrs Hamundide Mashayamombe came to her rescue by grabbing her waist pulling her away from Masvimbo. It was stated that Masvimbo pushed Mrs Mashayamombe and she fell down. He then dragged Gapare to the veranda and went on to indiscriminately stab her 27 times all over the body.
The woman died on the spot and Masvimbo fled from the scene.
A report was made to the police leading to Masvimbo’s arrest.