30 years in jail for ‘merciless’ killing

2015-11-12 11:45


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Pietermaritzburg - A judge sentenced two men to 30 years’ imprisonment each on Wednesday for the “merciless” killing and robbery of Taylor’s Halt businessman Zakhele Kheswa on September 17.

Kheswa was gunned down in his own home at night whilst trying to defend his wife and two daughters from a gang of robbers. He died in the arms of his 16-year-old daughter.

The gang of nine men fled with just R360 and two sets of vehicle keys.

Judge Rishi Seegobin told the two, Vusumuzi Yotwana (26) and Sandile Mbatha (25), he “reluctantly” found the fact that they pleaded guilty and showed a measure of remorse for their actions was justification for imposing less than life imprisonment. He sentenced them to 25 years each for Kheswa’s murder, and 10 years’ imprisonment for robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Five years of the sentences are to run concurrently so each serves an effective 30 years in jail.

Judge Seegobin said the post mortem showed Kheswa died of multiple gunshots that penetrated his lungs, heart and skull. “His 16-year-old daughter tried to assist her father after he was shot but to no avail and he ended up dying in her arms. She and her 18-year-old sister and mother will no doubt carry that image with them for the rest of their lives,” the judge said.

He said none of Yotwana and Mbatha’s personal circumstances detailed by their attorney Ishi Khan were “out of the ordinary”.

“They are reflective of a sector of young men in this country who, despite having opportunities to make a success of their lives, choose to engage in wanton crime and violence,” said the judge.

He said their actions have a devastating effect on the fabric of society.

Judge Seegobin said robberies and killings like this have become the norm in a “country where lives are lost on a daily basis in similar fashion”.

He added courts are growing sick and tired of passing severe sentences that don’t reduce the rate of crime.

“I for one am at a loss in this regard. If we are indeed serious about ridding this country of crime and violence we need to start behaving like human beings,” he said.

In their written pleas Mbatha and Yotwana said they received a call that day from a friend called “Njabulo” who invited them to meet him to participate in robbing a house in Taylor’s Halt where the owner “had a lot of cash”.

They later met him and others, some armed with firearms. A total of nine men made their way to Taylor’s Halt.

At Kheswa’s house, Yotwana said Njabulo gave him a firearm as he explained that he could not enter because the occupants of the house knew him.

About six of the gang entered the house through an open door.

Mbatha said he had found Kheswa sleeping in one room and woke him up to demand his property. Kheswa started struggling with him and managed to overpower him. He shouted for help.

Yotwana said he shouted at Kheswa to let go of Mbatha but the businessman ignored him.

He fired a shot at him and Kheswa let go of Mbatha who ran out of the room.

According to Yotwana, Kheswa then managed to arm himself with a gun and pointed it at him.

“We both fired several shots at each other while I fled from the room,” he said.

State advocate Candy Kander said Mbatha and Yotwana have offered to help the state by testifying against Njabulo (who is already in custody) and any other co-perpetrators.

Mbatha and Yotwana were arrested with the help of Magma Security.


In a “haunting” victim impact statement Kheswa’s wife, Kuthela, said since the incident her family is “always scared” and they feel helpless. Her daughter, who is in matric, has been affected and been unable to concentrate at school. Counselling has not helped them. “My children have to grow up without a father and it hurts,” she said.

She also said she and her daughters were also assaulted by the robbers. “I had a gun to my head and I feared for my life and for my children because I could hear them crying,” she said.

She said her late husband was a “loving man” who was loved by his family and community and was a man “that liked to have peace”.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  court

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