The man shot a farmworker in the head in 2018.
Johannesburg – Advanced age has saved senseless killer Petrus Durant, the security company owner who murdered a farmworker two years ago, from being handed a life imprisonment sentence.
Sentencing Durant in the high court in Joburg on Wednesday, Judge Ramarumo Monama ruled that the fact that the murderer was almost 50 years old counted as a mitigating factor.
Judge Monama handed Durant a 20-year jail sentence, deviating from the prescribed life imprisonment for those found guilty of premeditated murder.
Durant killed Aaron Mutavhatsindi in Matshelapata, an informal community near Krugersdorp, in January 2018.
Mutavhatsindi was shot in the head while driving a blue Landini tractor he used for his duties at the Bartlet Eggs Farm.
Management of the farm had reported the tractor stolen, setting Durant on a chase against a tractor moving at 40km/* .
Durant testified that he decided to finish him off when Mutavhatsindi would not stop the tractor. He claimed the deceased drove recklessly and endangered residents of Matshelapata.
Judge Monama convicted Durant in October, rejecting his claim that the killing was justified.
As he had found Durant guilty of premeditated murder given his statement that he took a conscious decision to kill Mutavhatsindi, Judge Monama pointed out that only substantial reasons would compel him to deviate from the prescribed life imprisonment sentence.
He found the killer’s age as substantial grounds.
Judge Monama noted that Durant would be eligible for parole at the age 75 if he were to be handed a life sentence term.
“That in my view constitutes substantial and compelling circumstances,” he added.
“The attitude of the legislation is that nobody should die in custody.”
The judge added that he believed this was an appropriate sentence which should not be construed to mean Durant deserved any leniency.
“The accused must be punished, there’s no doubt about that,” added Judge Monama.
“The accused took a life senselessly in the circumstances where he, as an ex-policeman, should have known that at the time that he discharged a gun other law agencies were already in the vicinity trying to locate the tractor,” the judge said.
Mutavhatsindi’s killing was viewed as racially motivated by members of the public.
Community members and politicians who protested outside court during Durant’s bail application charged that Mutavhatsindi would not have been killed if he were white.
The State also argued during pre-sentencing proceedings that the general view of the public that Mutavhatsindi’s killing was an act of racism should be counted as an aggravating factor in sentencing of the killer.
But Judge Monama found otherwise, saying not enough evidence was led to convince the court that Durant acted out of racism.
He said the only evidence of purported racism he heard was from a community member who said Durant undermined her at the murder scene.
“The mere fact that the accused is white and the victim is black does not automatically translate to this being a racial killing,” added Judge Monama.
He said that while the killing “should be condemned”, “to clothe it as racially motivated” was incorrect.
Judge Monama also disagreed with the State that Durant’s failure to reach to Mutavhatsindi’s family after the murder proved that he was not remorseful.
The judge said bail conditions barred him from being in contact with witnesses,
“I find that it’s not entirely correct to say because he did not approach the family he was unremorseful.
“The court is aware that there were limitations.”
Mutavhatsindi’s family welcomed the sentence. Dovhani Mutavhatsindi, brother of the deceased, told The Star the sentence inspired trust in the justice system.
“We wanted him to be jailed for life. But 20 years is just as good.
“We can only hope he won’t get parole before spending at least 10 years in jail,” said Dovhani.