Four of the five found guilty for the brutal killings will spend the rest of the lives behind bars.
Northern Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi stated that each of the accused who were convicted for the brutal murders of DA Kgatelopele councillor Johannes Baatjies and Shuping Jeffrey Nouse on the road between Groenwater and Postmasburg in 2016, had an integral role to play in their deaths.
During sentencing procedures in the Northern Cape High Court on Friday, Tlaletsi handed down life sentences to the accused – Tshame Frank Baxane, 35, Zoniselo Richard Magawu, 40, Thompson Mncedisi Mphondomisa, 44 and Matthews Legodu, 52, for the double murders.
Baxane and Mphondomisa, who were also found guilty of the illegal possession of a .9mm firearm and ammunition, were handed an additional four years imprisonment each.
Co-accused Richard Hasane, 37, was sentenced to an effective 18 years imprisonment for the murders.
All the sentences will run concurrently.
Tlaletsi pointed out that Hasane was a “latecomer” who was not involved in the initial planning of the killings.
“Although he was not part of the original plan and played a lesser role, he should have foreseen that someone would be killed. His benefit had nothing to do with the greater scheme after Baatjies was elected as a councillor. He was drawn in at a later stage and received money to provide transport for the accused… where his girlfriend’s Volkswagen Jetta was used.”
He said citizens had a constitutional right to be able to make political choices, stand for public office and recruit members of any political party.
“Baatjies was killed on the eve that he was to be sworn in at Kgatelopele Municipality, where top dogs selfishly subverted democracy. The election ceremony could not proceed and a by-election had to be arranged at great cost to the fiscus.”
He stated that Magawu communicated with Baatjie and lured him to Postmasburg.
“Baxane drove past Baatjies’ house to see if he had left for Postmasburg – where he would be slaughtered. Baxane and Mphondomisa were the executioners who carried out the actual killings. Legodu financed the operation, where he entered into an agreement to pay a R20 000 fee under false pretences to purchase livestock, so that the accused would not be implicated. His (Legodu’s) firearm was used in the commission of the killing and his Avanza was also used to transport the accused.”
Tlaletsi indicated that the accused had meticulously conspired to carry out the murders.
“The killings were carefully organised and executed. A new SIM card had to be obtained and airtime purchased to call the deceased to lure him to a R800 000 business meeting out of Danielskuil. A vehicle had to be arranged from Kuruman so that no trail was left behind and a substantial amount of money was used to entice the person to supply the vehicle. It was decided that anyone who accompanied the deceased, despite the request to come alone, should be killed to eliminate any eyewitnesses.”
He stated that Baatjies and Nouse were unexpectedly and viciously attacked.
“They were not given a chance to defend themselves. Nouse was not able to run for safety after he was shot. He was left seriously injured, lying on the open ground. He managed to drag himself to the bakkie. He was helpless and in pain, unable to make use of the cellphone in his pocket. Before he succumbed to his injuries in hospital he could see people around him but was not able to explain what had happened when he was ambushed. He was under the impression that he would secure work so that he could provide for his family.”
Tlaletsi added that the accused drove off at high speed after bundling Baatjies into the boot of the car.
“Baatjies knew that he was going to be killed after he saw what happened to Nouse. He was shot at from inside the boot. He sustained injuries to his foot when he managed to escape and was dragged for a distance of no less than 200 metres on a rough tar surface. He was pursued by Baxane and Mphondomisa and was shot at point blank at the back of his head. Mphondomisa found pleasure in what he did and boasted that he had ‘finished him off’.”
He stated that the killers were “callous and brutal” and had shown no mercy to the deceased.
“Baatjies died because he won the local government elections where the accused were denied access to tenders and finances of the municipality. Nouse was killed so that the accused could conceal their tracks. They acted selfishly and for personal gain.”
Tlaletsi added that the murders sent shockwaves through the community.
“Baatjies was well loved by his family and the community. He was a pastor and was always willing to help anyone whether he knew them or not. His family was shattered and have not come to terms with his death. The family is suffering financially and their bakkie was repossessed as they cannot afford the monthly instalments.”
He indicated that Nouse was the only person supporting his family and his 13-year-old child, who was physically disabled.
“His mother is struggling financially to take care of her grandson. She was very emotional when she spoke to the social worker. She said that she did not expect the accused, whom she met through the deceased, to bring such devastating sorrow into her life. She stated that her son was heartlessly killed, ‘like a dog in an open field’. She is distraught and devastated that her pillar and pride had been taken away from her. The sight of her son’s lifeless body in the intensive care unit broke her heart. The image of her son’s badly bruised face made her feel powerless as she could do nothing to alleviate his pain. She reported that it was the worst moment a mother could experience. She continues to deal with the torture on a daily basis. Her health has deteriorated and she is unable to forgive the accused as they could not explain why they killed him.”
Tlaletsi stated that both families of the deceased would forever bear the psychological scars.
“The families were robbed of fathers, sons, soul mates and breadwinners. They are struggling to cope, are experiencing panic attacks, mental stress and are living in constant fear and feel as if they cannot trust anyone. They told the social worker that they will never be able to forgive the killers.
“Having to talk about the incident is like opening old wounds where the families are subjected to secondary trauma. The murders had a profound and tragic effect on the lives of the families of the deceased where they have been left mentally and emotionally fragile. No amount of punishment will be able to restore the lives lost.”
He pointed out that the accused refused to express any form of remorse and professed their innocence despite the guilt ruling of the court.
Tlaletsi discharged the charges that were made against the section 204 witness Tiro Lekgotla.