Fraudulent Radiographer Given Unconventional Sentence
Gqeberha, South Africa – Asisipho Mbekela, a woman from Mthatha who was found guilty of practicing with fraudulent qualifications, has received an unusual sentence from the Commercial Crimes Court.
Magistrate Lionel Lindoor ruled that she would spend every weekend for the next 10 months behind bars, totaling 2000 hours of periodical imprisonment. The sentence has raised eyebrows and sparked a debate about the utilization of such penalties in the country.
Mbekela, 27, was convicted of three counts of fraud and two counts of forgery after lying about her qualifications and working as a radiographer at Livingstone Hospital in Gqeberha for six months.
She claimed to have specialized in “Radiography Nuclear Med,” a qualification allegedly obtained from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in 2015. However, investigations revealed her qualifications to be fraudulent, leading to her prosecution.
During the sentencing hearing, Magistrate Lindoor expressed his belief that periodical imprisonment, a form of sentencing where offenders serve their time only on specific days or times, is under-utilized in South Africa.
He described Mbekela as a person who was “speeding on a highway with no intention of stopping,” emphasizing her lack of remorse and failure to provide reasons for her criminal actions.
In considering the best interests of Mbekela’s minor child, a probation officer from the Department of Social Development proposed that the child stay with her sister if the mother were to be incarcerated.
However, the sister informed the court that this arrangement would place her under significant financial strain. Mbekela’s defense attorney, Peter Daubermann, supported the sister’s concerns, arguing that separating the child from its mother would not be ideal. He requested that the sentence take the child’s welfare into consideration.
State prosecutor Siebert Baartman highlighted the severity of Mbekela’s actions, stating that she had planned her fraudulent activities and posed a threat to poor and vulnerable patients.
Baartman described fraud, corruption, and white-collar crimes as a “tsunami” that has engulfed the country, emphasizing the need for appropriate consequences.
In his ruling, Magistrate Lindoor acknowledged the seriousness of Mbekela’s offenses and her lack of remorse.
He expressed his initial inclination to remove her from society but took into account the welfare of her child. Lindoor declared that the sentence was a compromise, given the circumstances, and aimed to balance punishment with the child’s best interests.
As part of the sentence, Mbekela will present herself to the Department of Correctional Services in East London every Friday at 16:00, commencing next week. She will remain in custody until Sunday evening, allowing her to fulfill her parental duties during the week.
The unconventional sentence has sparked discussions about the efficacy and appropriateness of periodical imprisonment as a deterrent for white-collar crimes.
Critics argue that such a penalty may not adequately address the severity of the offenses committed by individuals like Mbekela, while others believe it strikes a balance between punishment and protecting the welfare of dependents.
Asisipho Mbekela’s case serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding professional standards and the consequences that individuals may face for fraudulent practices.
It also highlights the complexities faced by the judiciary in determining suitable sentences that consider the welfare of minor dependents.
The discussion surrounding periodical imprisonment is likely to continue, prompting further examination of alternative sentencing approaches in the country’s legal system.