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Court urged to show ‘callous’ killers no mercy

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The prosecution has urged the court not to show any leniency to the accused who were found guilty of the callous murders of Johannes Baatjies and Shuping Jeffrey Nouse and to sentence them to life imprisonment.

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THE PROSECUTION has urged the court not to show any leniency to the accused who were found guilty of the callous murders of Danielskuil DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and Shuping Jeffrey Nouse and to sentence them to life imprisonment. 

During sentencing procedures in the Northern Cape High Court on Thursday, senior State advocate Hannes Cloete pointed out that the murders had all the characteristics of a “contract killing”. 

He also motivated for the section 204 State witness, Tiro Lekgotla, to be discharged from prosecution. 

Cloete believed that the five accused – Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zoniselo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu – were all responsible for the murders, where they stood to personally benefit.

“The murders were tragic – where the impact on the families of the deceased was devastating emotionally as well as economically. The community lost productive members of society, while Nouse’s son has special needs. The families have a right to expect sentences that will alleviate their sorrow and pain. The court needs to send a strong message that law-abiding citizens will be protected from individuals who kill for personal gain. Criminals must be punished and face dire consequences for their deeds.” 

Cloete stated that the “persistent absence of remorse” shown by the accused demonstrated that they were not suitable candidates for rehabilitation. 

“The accused and the deceased were from a relatively small community where they knew each other. Like Magawu and Legodu, Baatjies was involved in politics – where the deceased was a former member of the same political party that they belonged to. The deceased both enjoyed the respect and love of their families and the broader community. 

“It was after Baatjies was elected as a councillor that he got in the way of the ruthless killers.” 

Cloete indicated that the meticulous planning of the murders included obtaining a SIM card, setting up a trap to lure Baatjies to Postmasburg, obtaining a firearm, arranging transport and hiring two executioners.

Cloete stated that Nouse had agreed to meet with the accused on the pretence that he would secure a business transaction that would assist his family. 

“He brought his documents and credentials along as he was expecting to discuss a business proposal. 

“After Nouse was shot, he dragged himself back to the Ford Ranger. The effect of the bullet wound was similar to that of suffering a stroke. He was completely helpless, alone and was unable to call for help. One cannot even imagine what went through his head … where he spent the whole night in that Ford Ranger. He was only found the next morning by the Postmasburg police.” 

Cloete added that Baatjies was pursued by the accused when he tried to flee.

“He was manhandled and shoved into the boot of the Volkswagen Jetta. He must have overheard the conversation when Baxane told Mphondomisa to shoot and kill Baatjies while the vehicle was travelling at high speed. Baatjies was shot at again after he managed to get out of the vehicle. The vehicle turned around when he landed on the tar and the accused dragged him along to the side of the road where he was executed.” 

Cloete stated that Mphondomisa had boasted to Lekgotla that Baatjies was crying when he had “finished him off”. “This shows the callous and brutal way in which Baatjies was assassinated. 

“The motives of the accused were extremely selfish and self-centred. The accused wanted to obtain political power at local municipal level yet ultimately it was all about gaining power, personal benefit and personal gain. 

“Legodu had informed Lekgotla that should the mayor of their choice be elected, ‘nothing would go wrong’. Baatjies and Nouse were the consequence of that meeting, where Magawu foresaw the possibility that he (Baatjies) would not come alone. That is why two shooters were identified.” 

He added that Nouse was killed so as to eliminate any eyewitnesses.  

“Although Hasane does not reside in Danielskuil and was not part of the initial planning, he supplied the Jetta. He had ample time to withdraw himself and put a stop to the killing. He was made aware that somebody would be killed when a discussion arose about a firearm and yet this did not stop him. He became a willing and active participant and became involved because he would receive money for his contribution. 

“In Postmasburg he got out of the vehicle to divert the attention of Baatjies and Nouse. Hasane was the one who brought the vehicle nearer when he (Baatjies) was bundled into the boot of the vehicle and drove away. ” 

Cloete stated that Baxane and Mphondomisa, who were tasked with the actual killing, executed their duties in an “absolutely ruthless way”.

“They were determined to kill and would not let anything stand in their way. Baxane was aggressive and urged Mphondomisa not to hesitate, while Mphondomisa was more clinical in carrying out the plan. 

“They eventually carried out the killing, as a team, although the pistol initially jammed.” 

Cloete disregarded claims that the consumption of alcohol could have impaired Baxane’s judgment. 

“The accused did not attest to this, where it appeared that he had all his faculties in place when he committed the crime. Baxane and Mphondomisa were active participants and not mere puppets in the hands of Magawu and Legodu, who were pulling the strings. They were pivotal in the plan to kill Baatjies- where Mphondomisa arranged for transport and Baxane made contact with the deceased to meet them at the crossing.” 

He stated that Magawu played an integral role in the killings. “At some stage he wanted to go to Postmasburg alone but it was later decided that he must stand back.” 

Cloete pointed out that Legodu stood to gain the most financially from Baatjies’ murder.

“Legodu was a successful businessman who was in a position to finance the criminal enterprise. The element of greed is revealed when he mentioned that ‘R20 000 was like pocket money for him’.”