Life is cheap

2012-08-11 16:03

Big questions raised in homicide case where victim’s mother says she and the court were lied to after farmer pays cash for killing

R75 000 – that’s how much a grieving Limpopo mother has been paid by the man who confessed to shooting and killing her 14-year-old son.

Groblersdal farmer Piet Swart was last week given a five-year suspended sentence and fined R100 000 for shooting and killing Gift Mbengani for “trespassing” on his farm last October.

Swart also shot Mbengani’s friend Lucky Zitha, injuring the boy’s left hand.

In a plea agreement, Swart was told to pay Gift’s mother Alzira Mbengani R75 000, and R25 000 to Zitha.

The judgment, handed down in the Groblersdal Regional Court, incorporated Swart’s plea agreement.

According to the judgment:
» Alzira Mbengani and Zitha were given the opportunity to make representations to the prosecutor regarding the plea agreement and the conditions of the compensation;

» Mbengani and Zitha are satisfied with the terms of the agreement;

» Zitha and Mbengani said they had accepted Swart’s apology to them, and that they were satisfied the sentence imposed on Swart was just; and

» they felt the sentence and compensation would bring closure and did not want to see Swart sent to prison.

But both Mbengani and Zitha told City Press this week they were never consulted about Swart’s plea deal.

Both also insisted they had never met Swart and he had never apologised to them.

A distraught Mbengani said: “It (consultation) never happened. Why wouldn’t I want him to be sent to prison, as he killed my child? I want him to be jailed for the rest of his life as I will never see my son again.”

She said she did not want Swart’s money.

Mbengani also told City Press she had heard of the plea agreement and compensation for the first time on August 1, when she went to court to hear judgment.

“I was really of the opinion that he was going to jail. When I heard the judgment being read, I thought of many things, including killing him with my bare hands,” she wept.

“I don’t know what will happen to the money. What I do know is I don’t want it. Maybe it will be withdrawn and taken back to the owner.”

NPA regional spokesperson Medupe Simasiku said both families had made “oral representations” on July 24 and August 1 to officials.

“We are not able to comment on behalf of the families why they are now refuting the consultations with them,” Simasiku said.

“If it is their contention that the recorded judgment misrepresents their position, then they have the right and obligation to bring this to the attention of the court, as it would be miscarriage of justice.”

The young men, who lived on a farm next to Swart’s, were fishing when Swart started shooting at them. He shot Gift in the back of the head.

Trade federation Cosatu’s regional secretary Tshepo Matentshe said the union would organise a “massive” protest march on August 23 to voice its unhappiness with how the case was handled.

“People are so angry and some want to take the law into their hands, but obviously as leaders we can’t allow that. People feel the life of an African child doesn’t matter in Groblersdal.”

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