eThekwini Municipality shop steward sentenced to 20 years for colleague's murder

2018-07-02 20:06
Western Cape High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Western Cape High Court. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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A popular shop steward employed by the eThekwini municipality was sent to jail for 20 years on Monday for murdering a colleague who was to testify against him at a disciplinary hearing.

Thamsanqa Njisane, a South African Municipal Workers' Union representative who worked for the City's Parks and Recreation Department, was convicted by KwaZulu-Natal High Court Judge Kate Pillay for the murder of supervisor Johannes Sekoati, who he shot five times in KwaMashu on February 3, 2015.

"He deserves to rot in hell," Sekoati's daughter Palesa Sekoati said in aggravation of sentence.

"Our hearts are broken...he never got to see the baby I was pregnant with when he died.

"Listening to the evidence of the doctor about how he was killed will be something we will never forget."

Njisane did not testify at his trial or give any version of events that led to his arrest. He pleaded not guilty.

Shooter fired three more shots

But Judge Pillay said it had been common cause that there was bad blood between the two men and Sekoati was going to give evidence at a pending disciplinary hearing.

The case against Njisane rested primarily on the evidence of Nhlonipho Ngcobo, a taxi driver who said he had been dropping off passengers when he noticed a red car parked on the side of the road.

A white VW Jetta came into his lane of traffic and then stopped next to the car.

He said a tall man, with a short beard, got out of the Jetta and fired two shots into the driver's side window of the red car.

He then noticed a woman get out of the red car. The shooter fired three more shots and then he and the woman left together.

He noted down the registration number which he gave to the police and later pointed out Njisane at an ID parade.

Evidence was that the vehicle was registered in the name of "Carol Shelembe" who, it appeared from documentation, shared an address with Njisane.

It later emerged during sentencing proceedings, that Njisane's wife is called Carol.

In her judgment, Pillay said with only a single eyewitness, the court had to be mindful of the fallibility of human observation.

She said Ngcobo had been an impressive and credible witness and his evidence – that he heard five shots – had been backed by medical reports which showed Sekoati had been shot five times in the head and body.

'Aggravating factor'

There was also circumstantial evidence that Njisane had been seen by colleagues driving the Jetta. It was also seen by the investigating officer when he went to his house, and there was the link between Njisane and the registered owner.

"In the face of this, he chose not to testify...we have no insight into why did what he did. What we have though is a motive presented by the State which has not been disputed.

"This motive is actually an aggravating factor. 

"We cannot have a society where people resort to violence to resolve disputes. Surely he could have just got decent legal representation for his inquiry if he was afraid of the evidence the deceased was going to give?"

She said she could not find that the murder had been premeditated and thus the minimum sentence applicable was 15 years.

"But that is far too low. This court can impose a higher sentence than that and, in this matter, it will.

"The message has to be sent out that these sort of offences will not be treated lightly," she said, sentencing him to serve 20 years behind bars.

Njisane appeared disinterested and even yawned. He shared a joke with the court orderly who led him down the steps to the cells below court. Sekoati's relatives shouted "bye bye" as he left.

There was no application for leave to appeal.

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