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Durban - A former student who was a “political fanatic”, serving a life sentence for killing two people, has told a court that he was not a high risk and that his anger was under control.
Nqobile Zondi, who has served 16 years of his sentence at Westville Prison - short of the 20 years required to be eligible for parole - has taken the Department of Correctional Services to court after it turned down his parole application.
Advocate Thandi Norman, acting for the department, argued in the Durban High Court on Friday that Zondi should not be released as he was aggressive and needed anger management.
Zondi had been sentenced to life imprisonment on October 24, 199, for two counts of murder and one attempted murder.
At the time of the murders Zondi was a law student at the University of Zululand and a member of the IFP student movement, SADESMO.
Zondi said that he had been tasked with attaining weapons and money for the movement.
In court papers, Correctional Services Minister Sbu Ndebele said there was no indication that Zondi had cut all ties with the IFP or whether an enquiry or investigation had been done to assess the number of weapons he possessed prior to incarceration or those that he might have access to. Ndebele said a psychologist had recommended that Zondi continue in a programme for aggressive offenders and should not have access to weapons.
“According to the reports, he was a bodyguard from an early age,” Ndebele said in his affidavit.
He said all the offences committed by Zondi involved the use of firearms.
“It is not a secret that many people die in this country because of intentional and reckless use of firearms.”
Ndebele said it was for this and other reasons that he decided not to grant parole.
He said the parole board had failed to deal with steps to ensure that Zondi was integrated with his family and community. He said that according to a social workers report, Zondi’s parents had never visited him in prison.
On September 9, 1995, he and an accomplice shot and killed a woman who was asleep in the back of a vehicle, shot dead the driver - an off duty police officer - and injured another passenger.
Zondi and his accomplice had placed logs on a road to force motorists to stop and when a driver stopped and tried to remove the logs, they opened fire with an AK-47 rifle. They then stole the vehicle. Zondi had also committed two other robberies - in March 1996 and February 1997.
When Zondi was sentenced to life, he was already serving an effective 22 years for the robberies.
Handing down sentence, Judge Chris Nicholson had said: “The catalogue of offences committed by the accused after September 9, 1995, convinces me he is not capable of reformation.”
Ndebele said a case management committee had met with Zondi on October 21, 2011. It decided in his favour that day.
But Ndebele said that almost a year later, on December 19 last year, he had approved the recommendation of the National Council for Correctional Services (NCCS), made on October 15, for Zondi not be placed on parole.
The NCCS had also recommended that Zondi only apply to the council in two years’ time subject to him participating in a restorative justice programme, and that a comprehensive psychological report be submitted.
Ndebele said that the recommendation of the parole committee was irreconcilable with the report of the chief psychologist. Zondi was also not a first-time offender, he said.
However, Zondi argued that the reason his application had been dismissed was because of delays with the department.
When Judge Piet Koen on Friday questioned Zondi on the issue of restorative justice, his reply was that there was no need for that process if the victims’ families and the attacker were strangers. He stuck to this argument, even when Koen asked him if he was sure about what he was saying. Zondi also argued that he was not a high risk offender because he had not left prison to commit crime.
“If someone commits a serious offence, it does not mean that they are high risk. I was never classified a high risk,” he said.
Zondi said that the crimes were due to political tensions at the time: “I was a political fanatic. It is the right of anyone to be part of a political movement.”
Zondi did not express remorse for his crimes, nor did he mention plans to meet with the families of his victims for any form of reconciliation.
Norman said Zondi should only be considered for parole in 2018, saying that by then he would have already served 20 years of his sentence.
Norman said that it was for this reason that the minister had not considered his application.
Norman said given his aggressive behaviour, the decision not to grant him parole was rational and reasonable. Judgment was reserved.