Suspended sentence for woman who bashed hubby to death with burning log during maize field dispute


In a tragic incident stemming from a domestic dispute, a 62-year-old woman from Gweru, Zimbabwe, has been handed a wholly suspended three-year sentence for fatally assaulting her husband of 42 years. Clara Dube was convicted of culpable homicide by Gweru High Court judge Justice Evangelista Kabasa, who took into account the circumstances surrounding the incident and the defendant’s plea of guilty.

According to court documents, the unfortunate event unfolded on January 26, 2022, when Dube and her late husband became embroiled in a heated argument over the weeding of their maize field. Reports indicate that during the altercation, the deceased physically assaulted Dube with clenched fists. In a desperate act of self-defense, Dube retaliated by repeatedly striking her husband with a burning log, causing severe injuries all over his body.

Tragically, the husband succumbed to his injuries on February 3 of the same year. A subsequent post-mortem examination revealed that he had passed away due to traumatic shock and assault. Further investigation revealed that the log used by Dube weighed approximately 0.796 kilograms and measured 79 centimeters in length.

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In delivering the judgment, Justice Kabasa acknowledged the legal principle that allows individuals to defend themselves when faced with an unlawful attack. However, the judge emphasized that the means employed to repel such an attack must be reasonable under the circumstances. Consequently, the defense of self-defense did not absolve Dube of all charges but instead reduced the charge from murder to culpable homicide.

“Equally where a person is acting in self-defence but the means used to avert the unlawful attack is not reasonable in all the circumstances, the defence of self does not avail them as a complete defence but reduces a charge of murder to culpable homicide,” ruled Justice Kabasa.

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“In accepting the limited plea to culpable homicide, the State showed an appreciation of the facts of this matter and the law. It cannot be said in the circumstances that you intended to kill the deceased or realised the real risk or possibility that your conduct may cause his death but continued, nonetheless.

“You are therefore found guilty of culpable homicide.”

The judge said in assessing her appropriate sentence she pleaded guilty to the charge saying a plea of guilty should be rewarded as it contributes to the smooth administration of justice.

“You showed that you regret what you did, and you appear genuinely remorseful. You are a female first offender and female first offenders should be treated with some measure of leniency,” said Justice Kabasa.

“You are 62 years old and you do look that age. Your age is therefore a factor that the court must consider in coming up with a fair and just sentence.”

She added: “Your son told us that your marriage was not a happy one. It appears it was a 42-year-old marriage which was abusive to an extent that you would leave your matrimonial home for your maternal home.

“When this incident occurred, your son told us that you had recently returned home. He is sad that he lost a father but equally sad to see you facing charges and the likelihood of being imprisoned. It is sad that people stay together for so long in an abusive relationship.

“The deceased had assaulted you before you decided to use the log. He was repeating the pattern of abuse which characterised your 42-year-old marriage.

“Society is unforgiving and you will probably now be called “that one who killed her husband.” That is a heavy burden to carry. Emotionally you are likely to be haunted by this death. After the tragic incident, you rushed to seek help for the deceased and people tried to render assistance but to no avail.”

Justice Kabasa said the prison that comes with four corners of a cell is probably better than the psychological prison she will endure for the rest of her life.

“Gender-based violence is a scourge that has to be eradicated. A home should be a place of peace, joy and love. Yours unfortunately was not and you were also a victim of gender-based violence.

“You are not being punished for your evil intent but for being careless. The punishment is therefore meant to inculcate caution and so must be educative and corrective.

“Three years imprisonment, the whole of which is suspended for five years on condition you do not within that period commit an offence of which an assault or violence on the person of another is an element and for which upon conviction, you are sentenced to a term of imprisonment without the option of a fine,” Kabasa ruled.

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