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Killers continue to proclaim their innocence

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The defence for the accused convicted of murdering DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and Shuping Jeffrey Nouse have called for the court to deviate from the minimum prescribed life sentence.

The accused in the Johannes Baatjies murder case. Picture: Danie van der Lith

ALL THE accused who were convicted of the brutal killing of DA councillor Johannes Baatjies and a family friend, Shuping Jeffrey Nouse, on the road between Groenwater and Postmasburg in 2016, continue to proclaim their innocence.

The deceased were lured to an apparent R800 000 business proposal before they were shot multiple times.

Northern Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi is expected to sentence the accused on August 21.

The five accused – Richard Hasane, Tshame Frank Baxane, Zoniselo Richard Magawu, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa and Matthews Legodu – were found guilty of the murders in May.

Baxane and Mphondomisa were also found guilty of the illegal possession of a .9mm firearm and ammunition.

In mitigation of sentence in the Northern Cape High on Thursday, the defence called for the court to deviate from the minimum prescribed life sentence and recommended that the sentences imposed should run concurrently.

It was pointed out that the accused had been detained in custody for three years and nine months – for the duration of the trial.

The defence team argued that the lack of remorse shown by their clients should rather be considered a neutral instead of an aggravating factor, as they had all denied guilt from the time of their arrest.

The legal representative for Hasane, advocate Willie Els, stated that his client was suffering for a crime that he did not commit and believed that he qualified for a reduced sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment.

“He played a lesser role in the commission of the crime. He has no previous convictions and does not own a firearm or a firearm licence,” said Els.

Advocate Lentswe Setoute, representing Baxane, stated that his client was financially responsible for his three children.

“For the first time, at the age of 35 years, the accused was found guilty of a crime,” Setoute said.

He pointed out that while the offences that his client was found guilty of were of a very serious nature, he believed that there was a possibility that Baxane might be rehabilitated.

“He should be given a second chance. From the evidence presented to the court, Baxane was heavily under the influence of alcohol that might have affected his judgement.”

The legal representative for Magawu, Obatilhe Morake, acknowledged that the accused were found guilty of serious offences, where the court had ruled that the murders were planned and well executed.

“Lives were lost, where the families of the deceased lost loved ones who were also the breadwinners. Their death also had an economic impact on the families of the deceased, where one family lost their bakkie as they cannot afford to pay for it.”

Morake pointed out that Magawu was a breadwinner and a person of political stature prior to his arrest.

“He is also diabetic,” he added.

The attorney for Mphondomisa, Heinrich Steynberg, stated that his client was employed as a driver by Legodu, where he was influenced by his co-accused.

“He was not the mastermind of the crime – the other accused were the ones who organised the crime. He was merely influenced to take part. While the court identified him as the person who pulled the trigger, his role should not be differentiated from that of the other accused. The court rejected the version of the accused. He washed the vehicle as he was Legodu’s driver,” said Steynberg.

He related that although it was impossible to predict whether his client would commit an offence in the future, he believed that he stood a good chance of being rehabilitated.

“If a person does not show remorse at this stage, it does not mean that he cannot change. Mphondomisa is not a person with an inherent lawless character.”

Steynberg pointed out that the accused had no previous brushes with the law. “He is 44 years old and has no previous convictions. He grew up without a father figure and dropped out of school to support his mother.

“The accused was convicted of a very serious crime where the deceased were killed in a brutal and cruel manner. The families of the deceased were torn apart. Nouse endured a lot of pain where he was left for dead after he was shot and died in hospital a few days later. Baatjies had to witness his friend being shot. Baatjies was shot at while trying to flee after he was forced into the back of a speeding vehicle.”

The legal representative for Legodu, Shereen Easthorpe, said the accused created jobs for up to 100 workers in his general construction and transport business.

“He was employed for 23 years as a shunter at a mine and was a trade union representative. At the age of 48 years he has not engaged in any criminal activities and has contributed positively towards society and his family.”

She believed that the court should show mercy to the accused by deviating from the minimum prescribed life sentence, as Legodu was not responsible for pulling the trigger.

“According to the findings of the court he was only involved in planning and orchestration of the deed.”