Piietermaritzburg - The government has hailed the sentence meted out to the killer dubbed Pietermaritzburg’s “Houdini”.
Sithembiso Vincent Shabalala was sentenced to life plus 59 years by Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Nompumelelo Radebe on Friday, for a string of crimes which included the murder of Richmond farmer Rob Anderson in August 2012.
MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu said the sentence would send a clear message to criminals that the law would catch up with them.
“I say bravo to both the court and the team of detectives who work day and night to make sure that people who behave in such a satanic fashion are locked behind the bars,” Mchunu said.
Shabalala, who has been branded a serial escaper after fleeing police custody three times, was sentenced to life in prison for Anderson’s murder on August 7, 2012.
Anderson, 39, was shot dead and robbed of his bakkie when he stopped that night to open the gate of the smallholding he was renting.
His father, Malcolm, said a life sentence was not enough.
“The man who killed Rob deserves the death penalty. My son was shot down and left to die where he fell,” he said.
Anderson said his son had been in the process of taking over a sawmill business from him in Richmond when he was killed.
After his murder, the sawmill closed down. Forty people lost their jobs.
“Rob was killed for a bakkie. I don’t know if our family will ever recover from the loss of my son,” Anderson said, adding that it was cold comfort knowing that Shabalala was in prison. “This man has escaped police custody so many times. Every time we read about it, my family and I lived in fear,” he said.
Other charges that Shabalala was convicted and sentenced for included the illegal possession of a firearm and six rounds of ammunition.
The gun, which ballistic evidence confirmed as the firearm that killed Anderson, was recovered by police when they arrested Shabalala in Phoenix on August 17, 2012.
Shabalala was also jailed for:
* Assaulting his girlfriend, Thobeka Angeline Ngubane.
* The theft of a Toyota Hilux from Rajsingh Ramdalal at Umzinto on November 23, 2009.
* The theft of a Toyota Corolla belonging to Yastheel Baijnath at Merebank on May 29, 2010.
* Robbery with aggravating circumstances of Ramee and Vanitha Dhaja, who were held up at gunpoint as they returned home to their flat at Umzinto on July 2, 2012.
* Escaping from the Donnybrook police cells on March 7, 2012.
Sentencing Shabalala, Judge Radebe said the accused posed a danger to society and had progressed from being a “simple thief to a killer”.