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Two Zimbabwean nationals who hacked an elderly Dutch immigrant to death on his smallholding have asked the Pretoria High Court for mercy.
The body of 67-year-old Albert de Jongh was found covered with grass and branches next to the gate of his Wallmannsthal smallholding, north of Pretoria. A bloodied axe was found next to his body.
The elderly pensioner was hacked and bludgeoned numerous times, but a blow to the back of his neck, which severed his spinal cord, caused his death. He was killed on October 24, 2011, by Clayton Maleka, now 20, and Nathan Tsamwisi, 19. Tsamwisi was 17 when he committed the murder and robbery.
De Jongh’s mutilated body was discovered by friends the next day.
The pair, earlier convicted of murder and robbery, claimed they acted in self-defence as the old man wanted to attack them.
De Jongh had hired them that day to cut trees on his smallholding. He left them alone on the property for hours and when he returned later, he refused to pay them, they claimed.
Maleka testified that De Jongh attacked Tsamwisi with a “slasher” and, when he tried to help his friend, he hit the man “once or twice” with the axe. He could not explain how the other wounds came about.
De Jongh’s friends testified earlier that he lived alone on the smallholding and did most of his work himself. He was extremely security-conscious and did not allow anyone to assist him on his premises. They were also adamant that he was a naturalist who would never chop down any of the trees. A neighbour testified he had seen the pair, hours before the killing, sitting at a compound sharpening an axe.
Maleka’s blood was found inside De Jongh’s home, but he claimed he was injured during the attack and later forced by a friend, who came to fetch them, to ransack the house.
A probation officer’s report said the two men, separately, came to South Africa to try to find work. Neither had a work permit and they did odd jobs before their arrest.
Their advocates asked the court to have mercy on them, as they were still young and could be rehabilitated.
Judge George Webster said De Jongh was an elderly man who did not stand a chance against the two young men.
He posed the question of why the accused, if they wanted to rob him, did not simply tie him up and take his belongings, before returning to Zimbabwe. “Why did they have to kill a defenceless man?”
The judge said it would be chaos if the courts allowed someone’s age to be a mitigating factor after they had acted in such a brutal manner towards an elderly man. Their conduct that day was not that of youngsters, he said. Why did they not return to Zimbabwe if they were unhappy in South Africa?
The two men still maintained they simply acted in self-defence. The social worker’s pre-sentencing report said they showed no remorse.
The State asked the court to deal harshly with the pair, as it was a brutal killing. “The lies just rolled off their tongues in court. They are either experienced liars or have a natural talent for telling lies,” said prosecutor Josie van der Westhuizen.
Sentencing is on Tuesday.