S/Africa: Unease over court’s overturning of murder conviction

A high-ranking ruling African National Congress party member Panyaza Lesufi on Sunday expressed anger that South Africa's Supreme Court of…

A high-ranking ruling African National Congress party member Panyaza Lesufi on Sunday expressed anger that South Africa’s Supreme Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of two white farmers who brutally killed a black teenager for stealing sunflower seed at a farm.The macabre killing of the teenager took place in the town of Coligny in the North West Province three years ago.

Farmers Phillip Schutte and Pieter Doorewaard were convicted of killing the 16-year-old boy, Matlhomola Mosweu, in April 2017 after he was allegedly caught stealing sunflower heads. He was allegedly taken into a pickup and then thrown overboard as the vehicle moved at high speed.

Schutte and Doorewaard were sentenced to 23 years and 18 years, respectively, by the high court for the murder.

But Friday’s surprise ruling to overturn the convictions and sentences has left Lesufi, who is the Gauteng Province’s Education Minister, seething in anger.

“I am very angry. A life was lost and the (high) court found two gentlemen guilty for a loss of life. And if the high court erred and there is a need for the sentence to be reviewed … it means it must be challenged,” the regional minister said.

Lesufi said he was aware about the trends ethnic organisations like AfriForum, an Afrikaner rights NGO, which “believe, selectively, that they can defend people who are doing wrong things.”

“We cannot fold our arms and say this is normal,” Lesufi said.

He added: “That child did not kill himself. Therefore, we must not be dictated by racists who believe lives of black children are not important.

“Here is a child, 16 years old, murdered, and we must be told no one must be found guilty? It cannot be.”

He urged “the National Prosecution Authority to attend to this matter urgently,” adding that he would monitor this case when the NPA takes it to the country’s Constitutional Court for a third hearing.

The Gauteng official is not alone in expressing anger at the weekend ruling to free the two farmers.

The opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has also vowed to head to the Constitutional Court to seek justice for the late Mosweu.

EFF leader Julius Malema said the party would fight the Supreme Court’s decision until the overturned sentences were reinstated.

Reacting to the SCA’s ruling, AfriForum, which paid for the legal costs of the appeal, expressed satisfaction with the decision, saying it believed in the innocence of the two white farmers.