Guard’s life sentence cut on appeal

2010-05-05 00:00

A FULL bench of the high court in Pietermaritzburg upheld an appeal by former Cato Ridge security guard Sydney Makhaya against his life sentence for the murder of a Cato Ridge hotel’s night manager, Willem Gunter, in 2000.

Gunter was shot four times while closing the hotel on September 27, 2000, and died in hospital on November 1, 2000.

Retired KwaZulu-Natal judge president Vuka Tshabalala, with Judge Esther Steyn and Acting Judge Nkosinathi Chili agreeing, reduced Makhaya’s sentence to one of 20 years’ imprisonment for the murder in a reserved judgment handed down yesterday.

According to evidence at his trial, Makhaya had fallen asleep while on duty one night and slept through a burglary at the hotel. He was dismissed by Gunter’s wife and a Mrs Roux.

Trial Judge Ron McLaren accepted a statement made in hospital by Gunter to the investigating officer stating that Makhaya started shooting at him on the night in question without any warning. He also found that the murder was premeditated, that Makhaya telephoned the hotel earlier that day to inquire if there was a security guard on duty and whether Gunter would be on duty in the bar.

He arrived at the hotel late at night armed with a loaded gun and shot Gunter when there was nobody else around.

Upholding Makhaya’s appeal, the full bench ruled that there were mitigating factors, including the fact that Makhaya was aggrieved by his dismissal, that he was young (24) at the time and was a first-time offender who could be rehabilitated.

Judge Tshabalala also emphasised that Makhaya showed no propensity to commit violent crime before the incident.

“Given the circumstances of this case, it is unlikely that he will commit such a crime in future. The trial court should have looked at the totality of the appellant’s behaviour,” he said.

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