The KwaZulu-Natal woman who tried to sell her baby for R5 000 on Gumtree website will no longer be serving jail terms as court withdraws life imprisonment sentence earlier placed on her.
The 20 year old South African mother, Bongiwe Madlala who tried to sell her 19-month-old baby boy via the Internet (Gumtree) for $340 was earlier charged with human trafficking, which carries a prescribed sentence of life imprisonment or a R100-million fine.
However on Wednesday, the Pietermaritzburg regional magistrate Rose Mogwera who reviewed the cases, withdrew this on the base that Madlala had looked at selling her child as a “simplistic way” to solve her problem without thinking of the consequences.
Magistrate Mogwera said she has decided so after a careful look at Madlala’s personal circumstances and the nature of the crime.
Prior to Mogwera’s court decision, anti-child-abuse activists gave out different views on the sentencing with some agreeing to the compassion shown by the court, and others saying that Madlala should have been jailed for her actions.
Women and Men Against Child Abuse advocacy manager Germaine Vogel pushed for Madlala to be punished according to the crimes she committed
“If it was found that she was incapable of making sound decisions, how did she suddenly have the intellectual capacity to put an advert on the internet? It takes a certain amount of skill and premeditation to do something like that. I think her decision-making process is more sophisticated,” she said.
However, Madlala was not left without being punished, she was sentenced to three years of correctional supervision, which includes house arrest, mandatory attendance at rehabilitation programmes and community service.
She was also sentenced to five years in prison, which was wholly suspended, provided she is not convicted of a similar offence or any child abuse offence.
According to Mogwera, human trafficking is akin to slavery, but Madlala’s crime was not a typical trafficking case.
“This act (crime) did not have the traits where someone is sold to a syndicate. Although the child was exposed to these real risks, fortunately, it never went that far,” she said.
The magistrate made this statement following sentencing reports from a social worker from correctional services, who had recommended Madlala be imprisoned, and a psychologist who had assessed her state of mind.
She also relied on the fact that Madlala was a first-time offender and had shown remorse and would want to have some kind of relationship with her baby.
According to the psychologist’s report found that Madlala came from a poor family, was a recluse, had no friends and spent most of her time with her mother.
The psychologist said Madlala had low intellectual abilities and did not exhibit any signs of criminal or sociopathic behavior.
Madlala was arrested by the police in October last year when a member of the public alerted the police after she placed an advert to sell her 18-month-old baby on classifieds website Gumtree.
She pleaded guilty to the charges in November, and said she had been desperate as she wanted to pay back child support she owed to her former boyfriend, who had been paying maintenance for the child but had then found out that he was not the father.
“She was given a wholly-suspended sentence of five years,” National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson-Kara confirmed
She will “undergo correctional supervision, which means basically house arrest for a period of three years,” Ramkisson, the magistrate found that the woman did not have intention per se to traffick the child,” Kara added.
Meanwhile, Director of the Centre for Child Law at the University of Pretoria, Professor Ann Skelton, who withdrew from speaking on the sentencing, said the case had been “highly unusual” and sent a message that the crime was “totally unacceptable, no matter the circumstances”.