Windhoek High Court Judge Claudia Claasen yesterday reasoned custodial sentence was unavoidable, considering the circumstances that led to the murder of student leader Helao Ndjaba at the hands of the commissioner of refugees Likius Valombola.
Valombola was sentenced to an effective 14 years imprisonment for the 2018 murder of Ndjaba.
Ndjaba (27) died in a Windhoek hospital on 28 May 2018 days after he was shot in the head at a busy Katutura intersection.
At the time of the conviction, Claasen narrated Valombola was reckless as regards to the consequences when he fired two shots in the direction of persons on the street.
Valombola’s lawyer had asked the court to impose a wholly suspended sentence as imprisonment would have a “devastating effect” on Valombola’s family, including his elderly parents.
According to the judge, she took into consideration the fact that Valombola is a first offender who led an exemplary life until the tragic incident that robbed an innocent young man of his life in a brutal manner. She is also convinced that he showed sincere remorse, the judge said.
“While this was not a premeditated murder as the shooting occurred on the spur of the moment, and the accused was somewhat provoked by a situation of a partial obstruction in the road and the arrogant answers of some of the youngsters which may all point towards a reduced level of blameworthiness, it is offset by other alarming and sombre features that have a bearing on the degree of blameworthiness. Judging from the accused’s responses once he got into his vehicle, his patience ran out in seconds and his temper spiralled out of control. Though he testified at length, the court was not apprised as to what caused him to become so uncontrollably angry that he engaged in an act so dangerous. What is clear is that this lack of control or anger manifested in an unreasonable and brutal manner.” The judge further said a road is a public place where any person can be at any time. She added Ndjaba was a curious bystander who ended up being murdered ruthlessly and senselessly. “He did not deserve to lose his life for simply being at the public road. Nor does any road user. Members of the society have a legitimate expectation of using a public road without being confronted by the lethal power of a firearm. It is unfortunate that the accused opted to use a firearm to resolve an oral argument. That act, unfortunately, brought about profoundly severe consequences,” Judge Claasen narrated. She further said that Valombola’s behaviour of driving away from the scene after having just fired two shots that landed squarely on the forehead of a youngster increases his blameworthiness. It serves to perpetuate the reckless act of shooting in the direction of the young people, she added. According to the judge, the seriousness of the offence was correctly acknowledged by the defence team. She further said that the severity of the offence cannot be argued away as the sanctity of life will always stare back at you. “In this matter, the deceased posed no physical threat to the accused at all, he just happened to be at the road at that time. The injuries he suffered were also particularly gruesome. The two bullets entered the deceased’s forehead and caused severe brain injuries. He succumbed to those injuries 10 days later. His young life, once filled with ambition, was abruptly taken away through no fault of his own. It left a gaping hole in his family, who have had to pick up the pieces and go without the contributions he made.” In the end, the judge said, the personal circumstances of Valombola are by far outweighed by the gravity of the offence and the societal interest in curbing indiscriminate acts of road rage perpetrated against innocent persons. She sentenced Valombola to 18 years with four years suspended for five years. She also ordered that he is not fit to possess a firearm for five years from the time of his release and declared the firearm and ammunition forfeited to the State. Valombola was represented by Namandje on instructions from Nambili Mhata and the State by Ethel Ndlovu.