Pretoria - A depressed Algerian who shot dead a fellow countryman at a restaurant in Menlyn Centre in Pretoria two years ago was sentenced on Wednesday to 12 years' effective imprisonment.
Sitting in the High Court in Pretoria, Judge Ferdi Preller sentenced Fehrat Benbelkacem, 46, of Germiston, for the November 26, 2012 murder of Algerian businessman Makhlouf Osmani.
Benbelkacem had invested his life savings of R300,000 to buy a fast-food outlet from Osmani, but his business collapsed when the rent was massively increased.
He attempted to recoup his investment from Osmani but extensive family negotiations and even attempted litigation failed.
Osmani, a successful businessman, had been sitting at a table in the Parrots restaurant where he had a business lunch with a woman, when Benbelkacem strolled into the restaurant, pulled a firearm out of a white plastic bag and shot him in the back and back of his head at point-blank range before casually leaving the restaurant.
The shooter was apprehended and detained by security guards at the centre and subsequently arrested by the police.
According to Benbelkacem, he had fetched his firearm from a nearby building site after seeing Osmani sitting in the restaurant with the intention of threatening him to get his money back, but became enraged and decided to shoot him.
Osmani's former wife Wendy testified that her ex-husband had believed Benbelkacem should sort out his own problems and was not entitled to a refund, but the accused had threatened to shoot her and her son if her former husband did not pay him back.
Preller found that the murder had not been premeditated, but committed on the spur of the moment.
He said although he may have been wrong, Benbelkacem had genuinely believed he was entitled to the money. Losing one's life savings at his age also had severe consequences.
Benbelkacem had also shown genuine remorse by pleading guilty and fully disclosing everything to the court.
He tried to commit suicide after the event and suffered from depression, which showed his actions had been gnawing on his conscience, Preller said.
He added that the accused was no longer a young man, was not a criminal, did not need to be removed from society for a long time and could at most do with some education regarding self-control and anger management.
Wendy Osmani reacted with anger to the sentence, which she said was shocking.
“He took someone else's life who could not defend himself. He killed someone because he was cross.
“The sentence is shocking. I have a ten-year-old son who talks about his dad constantly. He (Osmani) has a four-year-old daughter (from his second marriage) who does not even remember him,” she said.