Accused says he lied out of fear

2010-03-12 00:00

THERE is not a day that goes by when someone’s life isn’t senselessly taken by criminals and even robust sentences ordained by the legislature do not seem to have any salutary effect.

This was said yesterday by Judge Kate Pillay in the Pietermaritzburg High Court when she sentenced Sisho Msibi (21) of Cato Ridge to an effective 25 years’ imprisonment for the murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances of Mark Vroom (51) at his home in Lilac Road, Drummond, on December 10, 2007.

Msibi pleaded guilty to the charges and said he did not do so before because he was afraid of his former co-accused, Makhosonke Kelvin Zuma (24), who threatened him and told him he should exonerate him.

It was only when he was brought to court to consult with his lawyer that he realised Zuma was not at court and he was able to make a candid disclosure.

He is now prepared to testify against Zuma, he said.

Msibi said in a statement he, Zuma, Nhlanhla Dlamini and a person who was unknown to him, went to the house (which Vroom shared with his brother Digby) to rob the occupants.

Although the door was open, the burglar gate was locked. However, they noticed that the bottom was a grid designed to give pets access.

It was decided that Msibi should enter through the grid. While his companions kept a look-out he removed a cellphone and cash from a table.

He then heard a dog bark, and realising the occupants of the house had awoken, he fled to the burglar gate to escape.

“As I was pushing myself through the grid in the burglar gate, the occupants of the house began pulling and tugging at me. Zuma [had] a knife and threatened the occupants … to release me. Dlamini thereupon fired a shot … which struck and killed the deceased,” said Msibi.

Dlamini, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life plus 19 years’ imprisonment in April 2008, admitted that he fired a shot at Vroom from outside the house in order to get him to release Msibi.

Judge Pillay said what concerned her was the premeditation with which Msibi and his cohorts went to the Vroom home in order to rob it.

“Why he was chosen is not clear. But it seems he was selected as the person you were going to commit your heinous deed on.”

The judge said Vroom’s life was needlessly taken “again for some nearly worthless items like a cellphone and a small amount of cash”.

The judge added: “It saddens me that life means so little to people of your ilk who commit this type of crime.”

She found that mitigating factors justified a sentence less than the prescribed minimum life imprisonment.

These were that he was 20 years old at the time, was a first offender, was not the one who pulled the trigger even though he knew it could happen, pleaded guilty and indicated remorse and is willing to testify against Zuma.

Pillay sentenced Msibi to 20 years’ imprisonment for murder and 15 years’ for robbery with aggravating circumstances, but ordered 10 years to run concurrently.

Msibi must serve two thirds of his term before he may be released on parole.

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