Orlando Pirates star Thembinkosi Lorch must have breathed a sigh of relief when the Randburg Magistrate’s Court handed him a suspended jail sentence and imposed a fine of R100000 for assaulting his girlfriend.
Lorch was granted a three-year direct imprisonment order, which was suspended for five years, with conditions. In June, the court had found Lorch guilty of assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm.
Generally, this crime carries a prescribed sentence of a fine or 18 months imprisonment, suspended for five years on condition that the person is not convicted of a similar charge during the period of suspension.
The court was thus within the confines of the law in handing down the sentence to the footballer, coincidentally on the eve of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children campaign (November 25 to December 10).
This year marks the 25th anniversary since South Africa initiated the 16 Days campaign, which focuses on raising awareness on the devastating impact that gender-based violence and femicide has on women and children, and the social fabric of our society.
The concept of “eye for an eye” is old-fashioned and barbaric; even the Bible proclaims “he that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her”.
However, there is an element of missed opportunity with regard to Lorch’s sentence.
If South Africa is serious about rooting out gender-based violence and femicide, cases such as those involving the so-called rich and famous should be used to send a strong message that crime against the weak and vulnerable will not be tolerated.
In essence, the law should be revised to prescribe harsher sentences for those found guilty of harming women and children.
Otherwise, actions such as the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children will come and go each year without making any meaningful impact.