Pretoria - Reconciliation played a part in Pretoria High Court proceedings on Monday in the case of a former security guard - due to be sentenced on Tuesday - on a charge of culpable homicide following the death of a boy, 11, in a drive-by shooting.
Gift Mokoena was sleeping in the back seat of the vehicle driven by his uncle on the night of June 2, 2007. He and his family were returning home from visiting his grandmother and they were travelling along the R25 country road leading to Kempton Park.
Johan van der Walt, a cash-in-transit security guard at the time, and his brother Deon van der Walt were travelling along the same road at the time.
The brothers said they believed that the vehicle in which Gift and his family were travelling was trying to push them off the road. They thought they were being hijacked.
Johan, a passenger in the car, said he fired several warning shots - aimed at a field behind the vehicle.
However, one of the shots went through the car and hit the child on the back seat, before it exited.
His brother drove on and said they were only aware that they had hit the car when the police stopped them a few minutes later.
Gift’s father, Jan Mokoena, testified earlier that a person in a passing vehicle fired several shots at close range, directly at their vehicle.
Both brothers were initially charged with murder, but Judge Ferdi Preller, after acquitting Deon, convicted Johan of culpable homicide. It was not clear exactly what happened that night, but it was clear only one shot hit the car at an angle, the judge said.
If several shots had been fired directly at the vehicle at close range, more than one bullet would have hit the vehicle, the judge said.
Johan, 43, testified in mitigation of sentence on Monday. He said he was terribly sorry for what had happened. “I will accept my fate… I have been convicted of something which should never have happened. If I could have changed places with him [the child] I would have done so.”
Mokoena also took the stand and testified that he blamed himself for what happened.
He said if he had not gone to visit his mother and taken his son Gift with him, the boy would still be alive.
Mokoena said his wife, Constance, who was not with them at the time, blamed him for returning home without their son. The family was terribly traumatised by the death of the little boy, he said.
Mokoena told Judge Preller that although he had a firearm licence, he had never even killed a dog. “My son was shot like a dog,” he said.
He showed the court a picture of his son’s white, marble tombstone and said it had cost him R68 000.
He wanted to know what was now going to happen about the expenses he had to incur.
Mokoena was also upset that Johan to this day never apologised for killing his son.
The two soon afterwards spoke outside court on the suggestion of the judge.
Mokoena later said he felt better about things after speaking to his son’s killer. “He told me he was very sorry for what had happened.”
The defence counsel asked the court to impose a sentence of correctional supervision, by which Johan could remain out of jail, but still pay his dues. This, the court was told, would entail house arrest, community service and attending various offender programmes.
The State asked for part of the sentence to be served in jail, but Judge Preller questioned whether it was wise to keep someone in jail at R190 a day (paid by the taxpayer) who could be contributing tax.
The court was told by the defence that according to correctional services it in fact cost taxpayers R6 000 a month to keep someone in jail and R12 million a day for the entire prison population.
Sentencing will take place on Tuesday. - Pretoria News