Small mercy for remorseful killer

2008-09-04 00:00

It was an emotional day at the Pietermaritzburg High Court yesterday for the family and friends of slain Cramond farmer Andrew Main (53), when one of his killers was jailed for an effective 24 years.

Judge Thumba Pillay, sitting with an assessor, found that Mthokozisi Blessing Jali (34), of Mpolweni, Cramond, showed genuine remorse for his actions and felt he should not sentence him to life imprisonment and in doing so “shut the door and resign him to a life of hopelessness”.

There should be some light at the end of the albeit “somewhat long” tunnel, the judge said.

Jali — who gave tearful evidence on Monday and begged the forgiveness of Main’s family for his deed — yesterday again offered an apology.

Main’s daughters Nicky and Kate, who attended the case, were distraught after sentencing. But asked if she felt she could forgive Jali and accept his apology, a tearful Nicky said: “We must accept it … But it won’t bring him back.” Family members said they are “satisfied” the sentence is fair.

Main’s closest friend, fellow farmer Ron Gevers, said he found the comments by the judge regarding farm murders very encouraging. “As one of Andy’s many friends, I draw strength from this partial closure.”

Judge Pillay said the killing of farmers is a scourge of our society and on the economy.

“Farming is the lifeblood of our economy and the farming community must rest assured that the courts will do their part in ensuring that salutary and deterrent sentences will be imposed. The killing [of Main] was quite senseless, gratuitous and cowardly. That the deterrent and retributive elements of punishment call for special consideration cannot be over-emphasised in the circumstances of the case,” he said.

Pillay said sympathy for the victim and those he left behind has to be reflected in the sentence.

However, emotion should not cloud one’s sense of justice and fairness, he added, and the element of mercy also has to be reflected in the sentence.

“I have found the accused to be truly remorseful. His contrition appears genuine. It must follow that having admitted his wrongdoing, there must be prospects for his rehabilitation.”

Earlier, Judge Pillay said that in his 10 years on the bench he could not remember a single occasion when an accused took the witness stand and expressed remorse and sought forgiveness from the deceased’s family.

Pillay said it was clear that the robbery of Main was planned and the primary motive was to rob him of cash and firearms.

The taking of the firearms — a 12 bore shotgun, a ,303 rifle and a ,38 revolver — further raised concerns that the conspirators must have had in mind the use of the weapons to cause further mayhem.

“It is to the community’s good fortune that the conspirators were arrested not long after the deed was committed. Who knows what destruction and loss of life could have followed … ” the judge said.

In his evidence, Jali said he and his accomplices lay in wait for Main to arrive home late at night and said he was shot with an AK47 rifle by one of his companions as he alighted from his vehicle.

They then took his keys and broke into the farmhouse.

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