In the stillness of a March morning in eSwatini, tragedy unfurled its heavy cloak over the quiet streets near Manzana in Mbabane. It was there, at the break of dawn on March 16, 2024, that Shirley Motsa, a beacon of talent and dedication, met her untimely demise.

Her life, abruptly cut short by the careless actions of a South African truck driver, Stephen Shuping, whose recklessness, fueled by alcohol, shattered the tranquility of the morning.

Shirley Motsa, a luminary in eSwatini's professional and athletic circles, adorned with the prestigious title of Chief Financial Officer at the National Maize Corporation (NMC), was also a celebrated sportswoman, weaving her passion for cycling into the fabric of the Golden Foot Athletics Club. Her loss reverberated beyond her immediate community, igniting a wave of public outcry and condemnation towards the egregious behaviour that led to her demise.

Shuping's intoxicated state behind the wheel of a Mercedes Truck Tractor, his judgment impaired by a staggering alcohol content of 0.70 mg/l, bore the grim hallmark of tragedy foretold. The subsequent legal proceedings, though swift in their execution, seemed to have offered little solace to those left grappling with the void left by Motsa's absence.

The court's verdict, a five-year sentence without fine for culpable homicide, and an additional four-year term with a fine of E5000, ignited a polarizing discourse within the community. While some viewed the sentence as a semblance of justice, others lamented its perceived leniency, arguing that the loss of a life warranted a more severe punishment.

Amidst the clamour of public discourse surrounding the sentencing of Stephen Shuping, a Mbabane resident, Nonhlanhla, voiced her discontent when speaking to The Bridge about the matter.

"Five years without a fine? It's a slap on the wrist for taking a precious life," she lamented, her voice quivering with a palpable sense of outrage. "What message does this send? That the value of a human life can be reduced to a mere handful of years behind bars? It's a mockery of justice," she continued, her words echoing the sentiments of many who found the court's decision wanting in its severity.

Eminent eSwatini Lawyer, Sibusiso Nhlabatsi, posits that the sentence was fair, given that it was of culpable homicide.

"It is a fair sentence. The public outcry is understood since a precious life was lost. However, legally, culpable homicide involves unlawful negligence of killing another human being. As opposed to murder, it is not unlawful intentional. The sentence usually ranges from from five years to eight years. I believe since this guy was facing two counts, the court considered that," explained Nhlabatsi, giving an expert comment to The Bridge.

Yet, amidst the tumult of public opinion, profound questions emerge, casting a searching light on the intricacies of justice and societal accountability. The expeditious handling of Shuping's case by the judicial system raises poignant inquiries about the consistency and efficacy of legal proceedings, juxtaposed against the backdrop of historical inefficiencies and delays within the court system.

Moreover, the sentencing itself invites scrutiny into the adequacy of punitive measures for culpable homicide. Is a five-year term without fine a commensurate response to the irrevocable loss inflicted upon Motsa's loved ones and the wider community? Does the law, in its current form, reflect the gravity of such offenses, or does it necessitate legislative amendments to ensure greater parity between crime and consequence?

The specter of vigilante justice looms large in the absence of perceived fairness within the judicial framework. As societal trust in the legal apparatus wanes, the imperative to address systemic shortcomings becomes ever more pressing, lest the fragile threads of civil order unravel under the weight of disillusionment.

Beyond the confines of the courtroom, the tragedy of Motsa's death serves as a poignant reminder of the need for holistic approaches to public safety. The absence of dedicated pedestrian infrastructure, coupled with the perilous intersection of vehicular traffic and recreational activities, underscores the urgency of urban planning reforms aimed at safeguarding the welfare of citizens.

Lucky Tsabedze, the Information and Public Relations Officer for the Municipal Council of Mbabane acknowledges that the country as a whole is experiencing a surge in the number of joggers and cyclists as more and more people take interest in healthy lifestyles.

“That is why there's a need to accommodate joggers and cyclists in terms of how infrastructure is designed,” he said, emphasizing that the Council has prioritized the construction of walkways along its main roads to provide space for joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

“We wish for a full roll-out construction of wider roads that provide cyclists lanes but at the moment the Council does not have the necessary budget,” Tsabedze added.

Furthermore, delving deeper into the circumstances surrounding Shuping's intoxication raises pertinent questions about the societal norms and environments that enable such behaviours to persist unchecked. Addressing the root causes of alcohol abuse, coupled with stringent enforcement of regulations governing alcohol consumption and transportation, represents a vital step towards preventing future tragedies of this nature.

In the wake of Shirley Motsa's untimely passing, eSwatini finds itself at a crossroads, grappling with the complex interplay of justice, accountability, and public safety. As the nation navigates these turbulent waters, guided by the beacon of Motsa's memory, it must heed the clarion call for a more equitable and compassionate society—one where the scales of justice are balanced not only in the courtroom but also in the corridors of collective conscience.