Lucky Dube‘s 3 killers were sentenced to life in prison today in the Johannesburg High Court, after busy week that included a failed escape attempt and a guilty verdict in the South African reggae musician’s murder case.
Sifiso Mhlanga, Mbuti Mabe, and Julius Ngxowa, the gunmen who killed internationally-acclaimed reggae star Lucky Dube during a failed carjacking on October 18, 2007 will live out their days in prison: they were also sentenced to an additional 15 years in prison for attempting to steal Lucky Dube’s car, 18 years for stealing the car used to escape the murder scene, and 18 years for carjacking another person 2 days after Dube’s murder. They received additional prison sentences for possessing guns and ammunition.
South African high court Judge Seun Moshidi said “The accused showed no mercy for the deceased,” as the sentences were delivered. “It is difficult for the court to extend any mercy today.”
The South African Press Association reported that Lucky Dube’s relatives applauded as the verdicts were read, while Zanele Dube, Lucky Dube’s wife, cried uncontrollably. The later said “The sentence won’t heal me, but we are happy they were arrested and that the law took its course,” according to IOL.
Band members and friends of the deceased reggae musician waited outside the court with signs reading “These devils, these criminals and hooligans, do not belong to the civilised society. What a waste of life,” and “These devils have killed the reggae king.”
Tonique Thala, one of Lucky Dube’s backup singers, said “I don’t think we will ever recover from this. But we are happy that justice has been done.”
The band members also promised to keep Lucky Dube’s memory alive by continuing his work. Thuthukani Cele, Dube’s reggae keyboardist, said “we have to continue with a message of peace, love and unity. I feel it’s part of my responsibility as a band member to honour his legacy by carrying on with his work.”
The courthouse security was under increased alert after Mabe and Mlanga attempted to escape on Tuesday morning after hitting a South African police officer in the face with a brick. They appeared in court later that day, their heads wrapped in bandages bloodied from wounds suffered when the SAPA guards foiled their escape attempt. The 2 men now face additional charges for assault and attempting to escape police custody.
The gunmen shot Lucky Dube at close range, killing him while he was dropping his teenage son Thokozani Dube off at a relative’s house. He died at age 43, an abrupt end to a career that began as the first South African reggae star and included Zulu, English, and Afrikaans recordings. His career spanned more than 20 albums, 20 years, and over 20 local and international awards. As his fame grew from the release of his 1984 debut Rastas Never Die, which was banned by South Africa’s apartheid government, he went on to performa alongside Sinead O’Connor, Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Ziggy Marley, and Sting. Dube is widely considered to be the first, and greatest, reggae music artist in South African history.
Domestic activists were so outraged by Lucky Dube’s murder that it renewed political debate over the possible restoration of the death penalty for murder, a symptom of South Africa’s high crime rate.