A gardener has been sentenced to 15 years in jail for killing his employer – a Bultfontein, Pretoria, smallholding owner – with a knife over a wage dispute.
Pretoria High Court Judge Cynthia Pretorius said the fact that Sarel Koekemoer, 70, refused to pay Jacob Mmekwa, 30, his meagre wage of R450 a month and accused him of stealing, led to the murder.
Mmekwa stabbed Koekemoer several times in his home. His body was found by his daughter, Anna Swart, in the bathroom.
Swart cried bitterly when she testified how her father was “ice cold” and lying in a “big pool of blood”.
She said she became worried when he did not pitch up at her home on the evening of September 8, 2009, as he usually had dinner with her every night.
When she saw him on the floor in the bathroom, she at first thought he had fallen, but when she saw all the blood she knew he had been killed.
She also noticed blood prints on the kitchen table, where her father had been making sandwiches before he was killed.
Mmekwa pleaded guilty to murdering Koekemoer, but the State did not accept his plea, as he did not admit all the elements of the crime.
The incident was prompted by the fact that Koekemoer had refused to pay him his wages of R450 and had accused him of stealing a grinder, Mmekwa said.
His wife had also accused him of wasting his wages on alcohol. She would not listen to his explanation that he had not been paid, he said.
On the day of the incident Mmekwa went to the smallholding to collect his money. An argument broke out between them as Koekemoer wanted to set his dogs on him.
Mmekwa said Koekemoer told him “I will kill you k****r” and he then grabbed a knife and stabbed his employer in the neck.
Mmekwa’s co-accused, Levy Mthombeni, 21, who was convicted of stealing Koekemoer’s firearm, was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under a section of the Criminal Procedure Act, in terms of which he can be released on correctional supervision after serving part of his jail sentence. He said he had been “forced” by his friend to participate in stealing the firearm.
Judge Pretorius said that when a person earned as little as R450 a month and a week after payment was due, he had not yet been paid “there was provocation”.
“However, this does not entitle people to murder. The accused could have gone to the police to try and solve the matter”. That the accused was called a ‘k****r’ also prompted the attack and was a mitigating factor. This is one of the words which should be eradicated from our language as it is deemed a gross insult,” she said.