UFS victims smile after verdict

2010-07-30 13:39

Bloemfontein - The four former University of Free State students known as the "Reitz four" were sentenced to a R20 000 fine each or 12 months’ imprisonment in the Bloemfontein Magistrate's Court on Friday.

RC Malherbe, Johnny Roberts, Schalk van der Merwe and Danie Grobler on Tuesday pleaded guilty to a charge of crimen injuria.

The charges relate to their humiliating five black workers in an initiation-type ceremony in 2007, which they filmed while living at the university's now-closed Reitz men's residence.

Bloemfontein Chief Magistrate Mziwonke Hinxa sentenced the four young men to a further six months imprisonment wholly suspended for five years on certain conditions.

These include any conviction of crimen injuria or a verdict in relation to unfair discrimination against anybody.

The defence counsel asked the court after sentencing for a deferred fine order.

‘Black people targeted’

Hinxa later upheld the application, after consultations between the parties, and held that R5 000 should be paid on Friday.

Thereafter, the men could pay the fine in instalments of R1 250 a month for 12 months starting from September 1 2010.

Delivering judgment, Hinxa said the whole case was dominated by a negative racial tension.
"It was a racially motivated crime of crimen injuria, no doubt."

He said black people were targeted for a task, which was admitted by the students.

Hinxa said the men lost their moral compass in the process of making the video, which was a protest and "resistance" to integration. This could not go unchecked.

The magistrate said crimes with a racial connotation were not a rare occurrence in South Africa.

In other cases, innocent people were mistaken for baboons, shot and killed.

Jail not appropriate

Hinxa confirmed the State's and defence counsel's argument that direct imprisonment would not be a proper sentence in the matter.

Speaking to the media after sentencing, State prosecutor Johan Kruger said he spoke to the complainants after the proceedings and they were happy.

"Justice was done," he said.

Kruger said it was a pity the case took so long to be resolved and the route taken by the State and the defence team with the case was the "right way".

Media’s role

The complainants in the matter still did not want to speak to the media, but there were "smiles on their faces".

Earlier, sentencing was delayed for the magistrate and legal teams to discuss a document sent to court by Lara Johnstone from Radical Honesty SA.

Johnstone wanted the magistrate to take special notice of the media's role in finding the former students guilty before the trial and, among others, reprimand it for doing so.

Hinxa said the court took note of the document but it had no bearing on this week's proceedings.