Durban - Parmand Singh was a frail, hard-working grandfather who was well liked in his community.
So when the 68-year-old Dalton pensioner was shot in the back while running away from a cold-blooded killer who had just hijacked him, the cruel tragedy numbed his family and sent shock waves through his community.
Not only was Singh stripped of his life and his prized possession, a green Ford Sapphire he used to make a living as an informal taxi driver, but also his dignity.
The bullet exited his abdomen and Singh’s body, clad only in his boxer shorts after he was robbed of his clothes and shoes, was discovered lying along a gravel road, which runs through a wattle plantation.
But there was a price to pay for Singh’s brutal murder that November day last year.
Singh’s cold-hearted killer, Fani Qinisela Mshibe, was given the ultimate sentence on Monday - life imprisonment.
Mshibe, at 22, young enough to be Singh’s grandson, was also given 15 years for robbery and five years each for unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Handing down the sentences, which will run concurrently, Pietermaritzburg High Court Judge Rishi Seegovin said the reality was that life had become “cheap”.
Singh’s murder, he said, represented the “tragedy of life in this country”.
“It is not only the high level of crime, but the gratuitous violence of the crime that is most disturbing.”
Society could do without people like Mshibe, Judge Seegovin said. He had launched his criminal career at the age of 15, and “it was only time before he took a life”.
“He has showed himself to be a vicious human being, who thought nothing to shoot an innocent man.”
Judge Seegovin added Mshibe had not shown any remorse for his conduct and there was no prospect of him being rehabilitated.
Speaking about the victim impact statements from Singh’s children, Sherika Singh Nirghin and Shamil Singh, he said it was evident he had shared a deep bond with them.
“It seemed he was a hard-working man, who was well liked in his community and his death had a devastating effect. In my view, he should have been allowed to live in peace and die with dignity.
“But that is not what happened. His story ends with him being shot, hijacked and his half-naked body dumped.”
Judge Seegovin said Singh’s death was “completely unnecessary”.
“Given his frail nature and age, it is unlikely he would have put up a fight with the accused. He could have taken his belongings without killing him.”
Singh was hijacked and shot on November 13 last year.
His family had reported him missing after he failed to return home from a local TAB where he placed horse racing bets. Singh’s Sapphire, which he used to transport passengers between Dalton and New Hanover, was recovered at Schroeder Farm shortly thereafter.
In aggravation of sentence, senior State advocate Candy Kander said during the trial Mshibe had tried to paint all State witnesses in a bad light in an effort to vindicate himself.
Kander said Mshibe had gone so far as to get his 18-year-old cousin to lie under oath for him. “The callous and cowardly manner in which the deceased was shot through the back from a distance and dumped in a forest is perhaps the most sobering indication that the accused acted with a clear lack of contrition or remorse,” Kander said.
With tears streaming down her face, Singh Nirghin said it had been a painful year.
“My mom fell sick shortly afterwards and died six months after my dad.
“It has been so challenging sitting in court and reliving evidence but I am happy we got closure.”