Ex-guard spared jail for child's shooting

2012-09-11 22:15
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Johannesburg - A man who shot dead a young schoolboy five years ago was on Tuesday sentenced to three years correctional supervision by the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

Judge Ferdi Preller sentenced former Kempton Park security guard Johan van der Walt for the culpable homicide of Gift Mokoena, 11, near Bronkhorstspruit in June 2007.

Van der Walt had to perform 18 hours of community service per week in the form of cleaning or gardening at prisons, hospitals, clinics or retirement homes.

Van der Walt would be confined to house arrest when not at work or in church on Sundays, and had to complete a number of life skills programmes.

The boy was shot in the chest when Van der Walt, 42, opened fire on the car in which he and his family were travelling back to their home in Tembisa after visiting his grandmother.

The court accepted Van der Walt's evidence that he had fired warning shots at the car because he believed he and his brother were about to be hijacked and had not meant to hit anyone.

Van der Walt and his younger brother Deon, a former Transnet security guard, had been on patrol looking for cable thieves that night.

He and his brother were both charged with murdering the boy and attempting to murder six of his relatives. Only Johan was found guilty of culpable homicide.

Judge Preller noted that Van der Walt and his victim's father, Jan Mokoena, had reconciled during a lunch break at court and had buried their grudges.

Van der Walt and Mokoena were both emotional when they testified about the effects of the boy's death on their families. Mokoena still blamed himself for his son's death. Van der Walt said he would have exchanged places with Gift if he could.

The crime had cost Van der Walt his job and he was getting divorced.

The judge said he could not accede to Mokoena's suggestion that he should be compensated for his son's funeral costs of R68 000.

The court could only order compensation in terms of the Criminal Procedure Act for loss of or damage to property, and a child could not be regarded as property.

Preller said he was acutely aware of the serious and tragic consequences of Van der Walt's actions, but found it was not necessary for Van der Walt to see the inside of jail again.

He said correctional supervision was not a soft option, but a sentence which punished as much as direct imprisonment.

The advantage was that it did not cost the taxpayer R190 a day to keep the offender in prison, and did not take him away from his family and job, so he could still pay tax, he said.

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