A man described as ‘mentally challenged’ was jailed for ten months in Swaziland for stealing alcohol from a bottle store after it had closed for the night.
Ntokozo ‘Early Bird’ Ndzimandze, aged 34, appeared before National Court President Chief Ndlondlo Tsabedze charged with theft.
The Swazi Observer newspaper reporting from Siteki on Monday (10 September 2018) said, ‘When the charge sheet was read to him, he pleaded guilty with a big nod and a notable smile on his face.’
It reported Ndzimandze had broken into the store and was found ‘drowning himself in booze’. He said he had accidently been locked in by a bar worker.
The Observer said during cross examination Ndzimandze ‘sent the gallery into stitches when he made reference to a mouse which could be mistakenly left inside a storeroom full of maize.
‘“How would you expect a mouse to behave if you mistakenly left it inside a maize storeroom?” he asked, as he appeared to be expecting a response.’
He was sentenced to 10 months in jail with the option to pay a fine of E1,000. In Swaziland seven in ten people live on incomes less than E30 a day.
The Observer reported he was taken to Big Bend correctional facility as he failed to pay the fine.
The newspaper reported, ‘The judgement has been criticised by some law practitioners who pointed out that the accused was known to be mentally challenged as he normally roams around the town centre, scavenging for food. When he appeared before court, none of his relatives were present to state his condition.’
It is not unusual in Swaziland () for people to be sent to jail because they cannot afford the fine option.
In August 2014 it was reported that more than 1,000 people were in jail in Swaziland because they were too poor to pay fines. That was nearly three in ten of the entire prison population.
In Swaziland offenders are often given the option of jail time or paying a fine. Correctional Services Commissioner Isaiah Ntshangase said at the time there were people in jail because they could not pay fines for a range of matters, including traffic offences, theft by false pretences, malicious injury to property and fraud.
Figures revealed that 1,053 of 3,615 inmates in Swazi jails were there because they did not have the money to pay the fine option - 29.1 percent of the entire prison population.
Ntshangase said the numbers in prison because they could not pay fines was growing.
Man too poor to pay fine sent to jail