April 15 2005 at 10:58AM
By Joseph Makua
A mother-of-two has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the death of her newborn baby.
Mokgadi Patience Rathlalane, 31, of Zone 3 in Diepkloof, Soweto, had pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of her baby, who died last year.
Passing sentence at the Johannesburg regional court, magistrate Zacharia Machobane said he was surprised when he discovered on Thursday that the baby had died long ago but the charge had not been changed from attempted murder to murder.
Rathlalane showed no signs of discomfort The prosecution, social workers and the defence in the case failed to explain why the baby's death was not disclosed. The court had not been told that the baby had died two months later, in January 2004.
Rathlalane had pleaded guilty in October last year to the attempted murder charge. She had been in custody after her arrest on the day of the incident in November 2003.
Machobane said that, given that the baby had died, the court was supposed to sentence Rathlalane for murder and not attempted murder. He said it was too late to change the charge, because the court was already sitting for sentencing.
Handing down sentence, the magistrate said: "This is the most abhorrent act a person can commit."
"To give birth in a toilet, throw the baby out the window and then continue with work as if nothing happened!"
"You have two childbirth experiences and your mother helps you with the kids. What then prompted you to kill this one when at least you were taking home R400 per month from the project?"
A colleague who worked with her had testified that Rathlalane had never complained or showed signs of discomfort. At some point, Rathlalane had left the group and went to the toilets. When she returned, she continued with her work as if nothing had happened.
When she got home, she told her mother, who then rushed to the Sivuseni project in Diepkloof.
Upon investigation, the newborn baby boy was found alive with head injuries.
Two years of the 10-year sentence has been suspended for five years.
This article was originally published on page 2 of The Star on April 15, 2005