Estcourt killer’s prison term halved

2009-10-09 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG acting high court Judge Raj Badal yesterday sentenced the 51-year-old killer of Estcourt farmer Rudolph van Zuydam, who was shot dead in 2004, to 10 years’ imprisonment.

He described the crime as a “moment of madness” by a man who had otherwise led a respectable life.

The acting judge had been ordered by a full bench of the high court to reconsider the original sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment imposed on William Mbatha.

He said yesterday it is unfortunate that the court still does not know why Mbatha became so enraged on the day in question.

Testifying in mitigation of sentence, Mbatha apologised to Van Zuydam’s family, but maintained that he reacted in self-defence after he was attacked and believed that he was being assaulted by “muggers”.

It was alleged that during 2003, Van Zuydam granted Mbatha permission to cut trees on his farm. In the process, Mbatha damaged a shed and equipment. He agreed to pay R2 000 in compensation, but failed to do so.

Van Zuydam’s son testified that on August 13, 2004, he telephoned his father to tell him Mbatha was at Goodson’s garage, and his father arrived to discuss the damages he was owed.

While they were out of sight gunshots rang out.

Van Zuydam’s son saw his father running, with Mbatha chasing after him holding a gun. Mbatha fired another shot and he saw his father fall. When Mbatha reached him he straddled him, lifted his neck by his collar and fired again into the back of his head.

Before the incident, Mbatha had owned a licensed firearm for five years and had never used it.

Judge Badal said he believes there are compelling and substantial circumstances to warrant a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum of 15 years for unpremeditated murder.

He said Mbatha has been a “model citizen” and is now 51 and is unlikely to offend again.

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