Two Rattray killers get life

2008-03-17 00:00

Two of the killers of acclaimed Zulu war expert David Rattray were sentenced to life imprisonment each yesterday for the role they played in his “senseless killing”, plus 10 years’ imprisonment for attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Imposing the ultimate sentences on Simphiwe Ndlovu (25) and Sibonele Xolani Mpanza (28), Judge Kate Pillay said she had regard for both the “enormity” of the actions of the accused (and their fellow gang members) and the negative repercussions of Rattray’s murder on this country.

While hearing legal argument and when passing sentence, Judge Pillay voiced a “feeling” that there may have been more to Rattray’s murder than meets the eye, saying that evidence indicates that the gang specifically asked for Rattray by name, went to his house and shot him without provocation.

It was thereafter said that the shooter was told to “finish him off”. All six members of the gang, all armed, fled without taking anything.

Judge Pillay added, while debating the point with state advocate Dorian Paver, that it was “just a suspicion” on her part.

She agreed with submissions by Paver that the case of Ndlovu and Mpanza was distinguishable from those of three other accomplices, who pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment.

Judge Pillay said that even though the courts strive for uniformity in sentencing, the other three accomplices (Fethe Nkwanyana, Thembinkosi Mfanafuthi Ndlovu — the self-confessed trigger man — and Zwelihle Mtshali) all showed genuine remorse. The fact that they acknowledged their wrongdoing indicated an inability to rehabilitate, which did not apply to Ndlovu and Mpanza, she found.

Reacting to news of the life sentences, Rattray’s widow, Nicky, said she is “relieved” that all but one of his killers are now behind bars.

“I would like to thank the police, who have done a fantastic job,”she said.

Judge Pillay referred to Rattray’s international acclaim as a historian and said he increased revenue in his area by providing jobs for the people living there, and also by generating international wealth, attracting overseas tourists to his Fugitives’ Drift Lodge.

Judge Pillay said the murder highlighted the “scourge” that is tearing the moral fabric of society asunder, and also threw the international spotlight on South Africa.

“The prosecution argued that this was really a robbery that went horribly wrong, although the facts, I suspect, indicate otherwise,” the judge said, referring again to the fact that the gang did not take any possessions from the Rattrays.

“This was a well-planned and orchestrated enterprise,” the judge observed.

Judge Pillay said the aggravating features included the fact that all six assailants were armed and would have aroused fear in anyone in their vicinity.

There was evidence, she said, that Rattray was heard to say: “Don’t shoot”, and there appeared to be no justification to kill him in cold blood.

Judge Pillay refused applications by Ndlovu and Mpanza — who was identified as the mastermind — for leave to appeal against their convictions and sentences.

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