'We are sorry Gogo' killer cousins tell granny

2016-12-14 17:59
Ben, 18, and Mthunzi, 22, Ramokgotla have been sentenced to life in jail for the murder of their two female cousins and a 7 month old baby (Mpho Raborife, News24>

Ben, 18, and Mthunzi, 22, Ramokgotla have been sentenced to life in jail for the murder of their two female cousins and a 7 month old baby (Mpho Raborife, News24>

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Johannesburg - The two young men sentenced to life in jail for killing their three relatives, including a baby girl, apologised to their grandmother shortly before making their way back to the holding cells on Wednesday.

“Siyaxolisa Gogo,” 18-year-old Ben Ramokgatla told Thembi Letswalo, who left her seat in the gallery in the High Court in Palm Ridge, to try and comfort them after Judge Papi Masopa told them they had been sentenced to life in jail.

Ramokgatla and his cousin Mthunzi Ramokgatla, 22, were each sentenced to three life terms for three counts of murder, to seven years each for robbery with aggravating circumstances, and to 15 years each for attempted murder.

As she stood across the dock, holding on to the steel bar running across it, Letswalo said in a soft, calm voice that the family would visit them.

“We will never see your cousins again, but we will try and come see you.”

Shortly after walking out of the courtroom, Letswalo wept heavily, and struggled to get words out when asked how she felt about the court’s decision.

Shaking and still crying, she told reporters that the murders had changed her entire family.

“I raised those girls and invested so much in them, but now we will never see them again. At least their cousins are still alive.”

She said Nthabiseng Letswalo, who the two had stabbed and beaten, but survived, no longer lived at home because of the severity of the trauma she experienced on December 10, 2015.

On that day Ben, who was 17 at the time and Mthunzi, who was 21, went to Nthabiseng's sister Lerato Letswalo’s home in Katlehong, on the East Rand, and attacked the two sisters, their cousin and her baby.

They strangled Lerato Letswalo, 18 and her cousin Lebohang Prisca Movit, 22. They drowned Movit's baby girl, Bokamoso Skhumbuzo Movit, and put their bodies in a bathtub filled with hot water.

When Nthabiseng, 23, arrived home they stabbed her repeatedly. She pretended to be dead, and the pair stole her Lenovo tablet, about R80 in cash, and her wallet.

Before fleeing, the two, who were under the influence of drugs, tried to make it look like a house robbery.

After they left, Nthabiseng managed to get up and seek help.

‘There is a God’

There was a bittersweet moment for the family when Masopa handed down the sentences.

Nthabiseng raised both arms, punched the air and quietly said “yes”. Another female relative sitting next to her said in isiZulu: “There is a God”.

Other relatives in the public gallery praised God that justice had prevailed while some struggled to say their final goodbyes to the killers.

Letswalo told reporters that in the past her house had always been full, as family members regularly visited and would often sleep over. After the murders, everyone avoided going there.

“I sleep alone in that house now and I get nightmares. No one comes there anymore.”

She was heartbroken by the fact that she would ultimately have to sell the house she had worked so hard to get.

During sentencing, Masopa said despite the fact that both men were young and apologised for what they had done, they had not successfully explained their motives to the court.

“December 10 2015 will never be a day that the Letswalo and Movit families forget easily. It is on that day that the two families lost their family members in a callous and barbaric way. It is with the grace of God that Nthabiseng survived the attack.”

Masopa said Lerato was killed for no apparent reason, that Lebohang was killed for reprimanding Mthunzi, and that Ben drowned the baby in the bath for crying and screaming too loudly.

“All the deceased in this matter were killed in a place where they thought they were safe. They were killed by people they loved and trusted. Instead of protecting them, they callously killed them for no apparent reason,” he said.

He described their deaths as “cruel”, “brutal” and “useless”.

Drug addicts

The two told the court they were under the influence of drugs at the time, but that they were aware that what they were doing was a punishable offence. They went to the house with the intention of getting anything of value which could be use to feed their drug habit.

Masopa told the court that drugs destroyed communities and that the relatives of drug addicts lived like prisoners in their own homes.

Defence lawyer Mmati Leoto applied for leave to appeal the “harsh” and “way too excessive” sentences.

She begged the court to consider the men’s ages, their remorse, and the fact that they had been high on drugs.

 Masopa rejected the application on the basis of the viciousness of the murders, and the fact that both men had not stated anywhere that the drugs had led them to commit the crimes.

The National Prosecuting Authority commended the court’s ruling. 

“This is one of the cases that shows the severity of the nyaope addiction,” spokesperson Phindi Louw said.

“It is truly sad to see the lives of young individuals doomed at such an early stage, but if you break the law these are the consequences.”

 


Read more on:    crime  |  narcotics

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