SCA hamstrung over 'shockingly lenient' sentence
The SCA has said a serious injustice appears to have been done by the High Court in setting aside a 15-year sentence for murder and imposing a suspended sentence on a former presidential pilot who stabbed a man to death. But there is little the SCA can do to remedy the situation, says TimesLIVE.
In the case, a former pilot to then-President Jacob Zuma, Pule Ramolefi, was convicted for murder by the Alexandra Regional Court. Ramolefi and his wife were at a car wash when he spotted Sibusiso Buthelezi, with whom his wife had had an affair in the past. Buthelezi allegedly attacked Ramolefi who, during the scuffle, fatally stabbed Buthelezi.
Ramolefi was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment.
In November 2017, the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg), on appeal, imposed a new sentence of five years' imprisonment, wholly suspended for five years.
The state was granted special leave to appeal against the new sentence.
However, it transpired that the law did not allow the SCA to hear an appeal by the NPA on a sentence imposed by a High Court sitting as a court of appeal. In its judgment, the SCA said the Regional Court had found that Ramolefi directly intended to kill Buthelezi. 'None of these findings was attacked on appeal.
Those factual findings are binding on an appeal court considering an appeal against sentence,' said acting Judge of Appeal Trevor Gorven.
Gorven said the High Court was wrong in deciding that Ramolefi had been provoked when he murdered Buthelezi. He said this was not a proper basis on which to approach the matter. 'The wholly suspended sentence imposed by the High Court is shocking in the circumstances. A serious injustice appears to have been done,' said Gorven.
He said the sentence was shockingly lenient. 'If this court had jurisdiction to entertain an appeal, there is little doubt that the respondent would have received a sentence of a lengthy term of direct imprisonment,' said Gorven.
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