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‘Youths’ guilty of murder, assault

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Seven young men are facing possible imprisonment

GUILTY: Seven young men were convicted of murder and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm in the Kimberley Magistrates Court yesterday. Picture: Soraya Crowie

Seven young men are facing possible imprisonment after they were found guilty for the murder and assault of a man four years ago.

Thapelo Dipico (21) was convicted for murder whereas his six co-accused, Bernie Steenkamp (22), Wayne Kock (27), Piet September (27), Lungisani Khumalo (28), Letlhogonolo Eland (28) and Luthando Ntshotsho (26) were convicted of assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The group was accused of assaulting and stabbing Sephelo Khuma to death following an altercation with one of the of the accused.

Previous testimony from the girlfriend of the deceased, who witnessed the incident, stated that the accused confronted Khuma and hit him with their belts.

The assault followed after Khuma had an altercation with one of the accused.

The group apparently followed the deceased and his girlfriend after they returned from the tavern in Kagisho.

Dipico then pulled out a knife and stabbed Khuma.

The lawyer of the accused, Anthony McConnadie, asked the court to impose a lenient sentence on the accused as the majority of them were first offenders and were still very young at the time of the offence.

“Accused one (Dipico), who is the now facing a conviction of murder, does not have any previous convictions. He is also the youngest of the group and was only 18 years old when the incident happened.

“The rest of the accused are also still relatively young and capable of being rehabilitated.

“Five of them have never had previous run-ins with the law, which is an indication that they are not hardened or knife-wielding criminals. The accused were not a group of youngsters, searching for people to assault,” said McConnadie.

He said although two of the accused had previous convictions this was also not a sign that they were repeat criminals.

“Accused three (Kock) has a previous conviction of assault which happened when he was only 15 years old.

“Until now he has not collided with the law again. Accused four (September) has a recent conviction of robbery, and assault including attempted murder, but his youthfulness also played a role in these charges,” he said.

He added that the deceased was also not without fault in the matter.

“It is clear that the deceased was a person who was argumentative and made a habit of picking on accused five (Khumalo). The other accused became aggrieved and took the law into their hands when the deceased again on the day of the incident had an altercation with one of the accused. The accused were having a potjiekos, which was why Dipico had a knife on him. If they did not have the “potjiekos” earlier then he would not have had a knife,” he said.

The State, represented by Tebogo Maheta, conceded that due to the age of the accused, the court could consider deviating from imposing the minimum sentence.

Maheta, however, argued that direct imprisonment should be imposed on Dipico, as he was the one who stabbed the deceased, as well as September because of his previous convictions.

“The aggravating circumstances in this matter is that all the accused did not show remorse. Even after they realised that things were getting out hand when they assaulted the deceased with their belts, accused one pulled out a knife and stabbed the deceased. The incident happened in the presence of the girlfriend of the deceased, who was pregnant at the time. The child of the deceased will never have an opportunity to know their father,” he said.

He said the two previous offenders also showed that their previous convictions were not deterrents in refraining them from committing a crime.

“Accused three received a suspended sentence for his previous conviction. That was to prove that he could be rehabilitated but that did not happen. Accused four had a suspended sentence hanging over his head but after only a year, he found himself assaulting another person.

“The court must differentiate between those who were first time offenders and those who have previous convictions.

“The court must impose direct imprisonment for accused four (September) as he has not learnt anything from his previous conviction and has adopted a life of violence,” said Mahata.

Mahata requested the court to impose a sentence of at least 10 years on Dipico, which is a deviation from the prescribed 15 year sentence, due to the mitigating circumstances of the accused.

The matter was postponed to the end of this month for sentencing.