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A mother of four will have to face the consequences of stealing a container of milk and stay in jail after the court lost patience with her light-fingered ways.
Maide Chaipa moved from town to town, stealing powdered milk.
She was caught eight previous times and paid admission-of-guilt fines. But then a magistrate in Bochum, Limpopo, decided enough was enough and sentenced her to a R6 000 fine or two years in jail, of which half was suspended for five years on condition she was not convicted of theft during this time.
The matter came under review in the Pretoria High Court, where Judge Bill Prinsloo confirmed her sentence.
Chaipa, a Zimbabwean national and asylum seeker, admitted earlier that she stole the milk.
She was caught red-handed leaving a Shoprite supermarket and told the court it was for her six-month-old daughter.
She was sentenced last November. Her lawyer at the time said she could not afford the fine and asked whether she could pay it off in instalments. The magistrate refused and the woman had to go to jail.
Chaipa told the magistrate she was employed as a domestic helper and earned “one point two” a month. However, she could not give the court the name or address of her employer. She also did not have an ID document, but said she had an “asylum”, held at her local police station.
When the matter came before the high court, the judge asked whether it was not unfair not to allow her to pay the fine in instalments, as she clearly could not afford to pay it in one sum.
The magistrate pointed out that she had eight similar previous convictions, for offences committed one after the other. She paid admission-of-guilt fines ranging from R200 to R500 every time, before the matter could go to trial.
The magistrate also said she had no ID, nor could she give her employer’s particulars. Thus it would be difficult for the court to enforce payment of the instalments.
The Director of Public Prosecutions office also admitted that the penalty was hefty and recommended it be reduced.
Judge Prinsloo said he had had a good look at the woman’s criminal record. This offence had taken place barely four months after her eighth admission-of-guilt fine for theft.
He said she had come to South Africa in 2010. It appeared that her thieving spree had started almost immediately.
“She moved from town to town to commit these crimes at very short intervals.”
Upholding her sentence, the judge said: “Given the remarkable criminal history of this accused I fail to see how it can be held that this sentence is shockingly inappropriate.”