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Pretoria - A man who appealed his life sentence because he objected to being called “nothing but a thug” had it confirmed by a three-judge panel at the Pretoria High Court.
Nhlanhla Solomon Dlamini had been given life, plus 27 years, after being convicted of murder, robbery, kidnapping and unlawful possession of a gun, following his involvement in the execution-style shooting of a man, who himself appeared to be a thug.
His two fellow gang members pleaded guilty to their part in the killing and turned State witnesses against Dlamini.
Apart from complaining about his sentence, Dlamini objected to the judge who initially sentenced him referring to him as “nothing but a thug who is a danger and who must be removed from society”.
Responding, acting Judge AA Lamprecht and two other judges said: “The short answer to this is that we cannot think of any other appropriate term with which the appellant should be referred to than ‘thug’.
“The deed was a callous and brutal one by an armed gang of which the appellant was the obvious leader.
“What they did amounted to nothing else but sheer thuggery.”
The murdered man, Reforce Smith Masuku, was described by the court as a notorious character who, at the time of his death, was awaiting trial in a hijacking matter. He was killed by the gang, who he had asked to find him a “high-calibre” firearm to buy.
Dlamini and his two mates, armed with the illegal firearm they wanted to sell, went to Dlamini’s home in October 2001. They took him to an outside room, so that he could look at the gun. But instead, one of Dlamini’s friends hit him on the head with the firearm and tied him up.
The three went into the main house where they gathered goods they wanted to take. They went back to Masuku and bundled him into the boot of his car. They drove some distance before shooting him in the head.
They returned to the house to collect the goods but when they heard police sirens, they fled.
It was found that Dlamini had headed the gang and their objective was to rob their fellow thug, not sell him the firearm.
“Violent crime such as murder, rape and robberies appear to have become akin to a disease that has spread and got out of hand.
“The courts are left with little choice but to punish such crimes, mainly with a view to provide victims with retribution and to deter other would-be criminals,” Judge Lamprecht said.
He said courts needed to act in a heavy-handed manner in cases such as this or violence would flourish.
Life imprisonment is the maximum form of punishment that can be imposed.
The judge said Parliament, in enacting the Minimum Sentencing Act, had tried to ensure that criminals would meet the full extent of the law. He commented that many judges, however, viewed the act as a thorn in their sides.
He came to the conclusion Dlamini’s sentence would meet the approval of the majority of law-abiding citizens.