Life for HIV-positive farm killers

Pretoria – Two men who killed a Brits, North West, farmer were sentenced to life imprisonment by the Pretoria High Court yesterday, despite being HIV-positive.

Judge Peter Mabuse said the fact that Thomas Chauke (30), a Mozambican, and Zondi Nkuna (31) of Soshanguve were both HIV-positive was not a compelling reason to deviate from the prescribed life sentence.

The two were last year convicted of murdering Brits farmer Brink Botha and robbing him and his wife Christelle of cellphones, R200 and their bakkie.

Both were also convicted of animal cruelty after poisoning eight of the couple’s Boerboel dogs. One died at the scene and two had to be hospitalised.

Police shot and killed a third suspect.

The two accused were part of a gang who entered the house by smashing a bedroom window. When Botha charged at them they shot him in the chest.

One of the robbers grabbed his wife, who had fled to the study, and demanded money.

She and her daughter were tied up before the robbers left. They found her husband dead in a pool of blood.

Lawyers for the two argued that their HIV-positive status, the fact that both supported young children and relatives, and had already spent two-and-a-half years in jail, should be taken into account as mitigating factors.

Chauke’s advocate Eric Pitso argued his client had expressed remorse.

Patrick Motsitsa, for Nkuna, argued it would be disproportionate to make his client pay for what he did with the remainder of his life, given his HIV status. He said Nkuna had seen other HIV sufferers die in jail due to lack of medical care.

State prosecutor JP Marais argued that Aids was an acquired syndrome and a lifestyle illness, unless where it was acquired through rape or blood transfusion.

Marais said the two had sentenced Botha to death without a trial.

He said the court should not allow him to become another statistic in the horrific number of farm murders committed over the past 17 years.

The Botha family had done everything possible to safeguard themselves, with electric fencing, lights, dogs and burglar proofing, but their home was invaded despite these efforts, he said.

If Chauke had had any real remorse, he would not have protested his innocence so vehemently throughout his trial.

Chauke was sorry for himself, and not for Mrs Botha, who had lost her husband for no apparent reason, Marais added.

Sentencing the two, Judge Mabuse said Botha was unarmed and defenceless when he was shot dead.

He could only imagine the pain and helplessness Mrs Botha and her daughter must have felt on seeing their husband and father dead on the floor.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, Christelle Botha expressed relief her husband’s killers had finally been sentenced, and that it would help her achieve closure.

She said she had forgiven the accused within 24 hours after the murder, because she believed it was the only way to get on with her life.

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