Two years ago, on November 26, 2012, a man walked into the busy Parrots Restaurant in the heart of the Menlyn shopping centre, and fired four shots into the back of the head of his former business partner who was enjoying lunch.
On Wednesday, Ferhat Benbelkacem, 46, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for the murder of Mike Osmani.
The reason it was not longer was that Judge Ferdi Preller of the North Gauteng High Court found the murder was not premeditated, but Benbelkacem – who had apparently been involved with Osmani in a business deal gone sour – had shot Osmani in the heat of the moment.
But Osmani’s former wife, Wendy, is outraged at the leniency of the sentence.
“He should have gotten a life sentence, because he took a life. He shot Mike because he was cross, and now he only gets a 12-year jail sentence.”
She said not a day went by without their 10-year-old son asking for his father.
Benbelkacem claimed he and Osmani had been involved in a deal in which Osmani had bought over Benbelkacem’s take-away fast-food business.
Benbelkacem ran the outlet for about three years, although the business was in Osmani’s name.
When the lease agreement for the premises came to an end Benbelkacem wanted to renew it, but was told that the rent had risen from R8 000 a month to R60 000.
As he could not afford this, the shop closed and he lost his business.
He blamed Osmani for this loss and said the latter, who owned several businesses, was well aware that he would not have been able to negotiate the rent agreement when the lease ran out.
Benbelkacem said he was swindled out of life savings of R300 000.
According to Wendy Osmani though, Benbelkacem took home the profits of the business, and Mike had “never done anyone in” over money.
Benbelkacem said on the day of the murder, he had gone to Exclusive Books in Menlyn when he noticed Osmani at Parrots with a woman. He said it appeared to him as if they were having a business meeting.
Benbelkacem said he decided to go and fetch his firearm – which he had for protection – as he wanted to scare Osmani into paying him back his money. He walked out of the centre and fetched his firearm from a nearby abandoned building.
He returned to the restaurant, with the gun in a plastic bag.
Benbelkacem said he became extremely angry and snapped. He fired four shots from behind at Osmani, and then simply walked away. He was caught by security guards as he tried to exit the shopping centre.
Osmani died in hospital the next day.