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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:'I Am the Accused': The 'Singular Case' of Mietje Bontnaal, the Bushmanland Murderess
Author:Turrell, Rob
Periodical:Journal of Southern African Studies
Geographic term:South Africa
Subjects:criminal procedure
Law, Human Rights and Violence
History and Exploration
Ethnic and Race Relations
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Women's Issues
Law, Legal Issues, and Human Rights
Cultural Roles
Abstract:This article explores an unusual child murder committed by a woman in Bushmanland (South Africa) in 1910. Mietje Bontnaal, a nineteen-year-old domestic servant, murdered Flora Ortman, the seven-year-old daughter of a shepherd. It was a domestic murder that exposed tensions amongst servants in a patriarchal farm household. The article examines the trial record and the subsequent mercy procedure. While the Judge found Mietje Bontnaal guilty, he recommended her to mercy. The Minister of Justice disagreed and recommended that she hang. The Governor-General agreed with the Judge and he commuted her sentence to life imprisonment. It was extremely unusual for a woman to be executed in the Cape at this time. The murder itself raises questions of sex, violence and moral order. While the motive for the crime was irrelevant to the court's finding of guilt, it was an important factor in granting her mercy. In conclusion the article speculates about her motive, central to which was the fact that she was a slave. Notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]