JAILED | ‘Unremorseful’ Lungisa gets two years for water jug assault

Councillor heads straight to prison after appeal bid fails

ANC councillor Andile Lungisa arrives at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday
ANC councillor Andile Lungisa arrives at the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court yesterday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Bay ANC councillor Andile Lungisa has spent his first night in jail – in North End – with his only chance of getting out now dependent on a petition to the Port Elizabeth High Court.

Lungisa, 40, of Sherwood, was sentenced to an effective two years in prison yesterday.

An application later for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence was dismissed in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court.

His lawyer, Luthando Ngqakayi, said they would petition the high court in the next few days.

Magistrate Morne Cannon sentenced Lungisa to three years in prison, of which one year was suspended for five years.

Cannon said Lungisa had shown little remorse for what he had done and only regretted being convicted.

Lungisa was found guilty last month of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, after he smashed a glass jug over the head of DA councillor Rano Kayser during a chaotic council meeting in 2016.

The infamous council brawl of 2016.

Cannon said those involved in the chaos had behaved like “common street thugs”.

“You betrayed the trust placed in you by the community,” he said.

“It is clear there is no remorse for your actions. There is a clear difference between remorse and regret.

“Assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm is a serious offence.

“A period of direct imprisonment is the only appropriate sentence.”

Cannon said the court had also taken into account that Lungisa was an elected public official and that the community expected a certain level of decorum, especially when dealing with council matters.

He said it was crucial to show the public that the court could not be influenced and the community needed to see the justice system being effective.

DA councillor Rano Kayser outside the court yesterday
DA councillor Rano Kayser outside the court yesterday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Testifying earlier in mitigation of sentencing, Lungisa said he was responsible financially for his seven children, aged between two and 16, as well as his parents and younger siblings.

“If the court considers a custodial sentence, this would have a direct impact on my family,” he said. Asked by state prosecutor Wayne Ludick why he had not mentioned in a presentencing report that he had accepted responsibility or guilt, Lungisa said he had not considered himself guilty from the start of the trial.

“It is because of the decision taken by the court, that is why I am remorseful and sympathetic [towards Kayser],” he said.

Asked by Cannon why he felt remorseful now, Lungisa said: “I am apologising to [Kayser] because, on the day of the incident, [he] got injured and now my heart is hurting.”

Testifying on behalf of Lungisa, businessman Khusta Jack said he had known him since 1997 and that he was a strong-minded person. “Lungisa is a pleasant person, a respectful guy which has made him the person he has become.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Lungisa did not intend to injure anyone on the day in question,” Jack said.

Testifying in aggravation of sentence, Kayser said he had suffered physical and psychological effects from the assault, including headaches and short-term memory loss.

“I was actually unconscious and lost a huge amount of blood,” he said.

“I only realised the extent of the injuries when I was told by a medical practitioner that I was lucky to be alive.”

He sustained a 3cm gash to the head, a 1cm deep cut to his chest, multiple lacerations on the left side of his neck and a further 4cm cut to his chest. A victim impact report was also handed to the court which detailed the effect the attack has had on Kayser and his family.

Ludick said although Lungisa was a first-time offender, the court had to consider the impact his actions had on the community.

“Lungisa has a great responsibility – as a leader, the youth look up to him.

“He has a responsibility to lead people and this is how he conducts himself,” Ludick said.

Immediately after Lungisa was sentenced, his legal team applied for leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence.

After a short adjournment, Ngqakayi brought the application on the grounds that the court had erred in finding that the state had proven its case beyond reasonable doubt, that witnesses had colluded and that the state’s witnesses were not credible. But Cannon dismissed the application, saying no other court would come to a different conclusion.

Kayser said he believed justice had been served.

“I am convinced that we have an independent judiciary,” he said.

“The outcome has proven that I was correct to put my trust in the judiciary and that justice has been served.” ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayitobi said the party believed the sentence was too harsh.

“It’s very unfortunate, but leaders of the ANC and society in general should not engage in violent actions.

“We feel for comrade Lungisa and his family. It’s not nice to have him – a father, brother and son – jailed for two years.”

ANC and DA supporters outside the court yesterday
ANC and DA supporters outside the court yesterday
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Ngcukayitobi said they would encourage Lungisa to approach a higher court to have the sentence reviewed.

He said Lungisa would be replaced as a councillor as soon as possible.

DA Eastern Cape spokesman Mlindi Nhanha welcomed the sentence.

“The sentence passed down conveys the right message that those who commit crime, even councillors, will be held to account,” he said.

– Additional reporting Siyamtanda Capa