Cape Town - Sex workers rejoiced after former motor mechanic Johannes Christiaan de Jager was sentenced to life in jail for the “brutal and savage” murder of two teenagers.
Western Cape High Court acting Judge Chuma Cossie on Tuesday handed down three life sentences to run concurrently, finding there were no substantial and compelling circumstances allowing her to deviate from prescribed minimum sentences.
“This court has taken into account the personal circumstances of the accused. However, it is in agreement with the State that the accused has shown no signs of remorse during the trial and during mitigation of sentence,” she said.
“It is also mindful of the fact that two young lives were violated and such lives cannot be replaced.”
Outside court, members of the Sisonke sex workers' movement ululated and jumped for joy at the sentences. Some carried posters stating: “We demand justice” and “Decriminalise sex work now”.
National Sisonke organiser Duduzile Dlamini shouted that she was happy that they were also regarded as human.
She said many crimes had been committed against her on the street but she had not reported them because of trouble with police and the justice system.
“I've been in the industry many years. This one (case) shows me that our voices are heard now and I'm going to motivate my colleagues to go back and review their cases.”
De Jager, 49, was last month convicted of killing and raping 18-year-old sex worker Hiltina Alexander in 2008 and killing 16-year-old Charmaine Mare last year. Both crimes were committed in Cape Town.
Cossie handed down a life sentence each for the rape and murder of Alexander.
He also received a life sentence for Mare's murder.
Six years in jail were handed down for dismembering Mare's corpse and three months for stealing her cellphone.
De Jager, dressed in jeans, a checked shirt, and blue jersey, smirked as the sentence was handed down. He leaned against the dock in a relaxed manner and looked around at the people in court.
Cossie said she agreed with counsel Sakkie Maartens that his client was not a serial killer, as suggested by State witness Brigadier Gerard Labuschagne during sentencing arguments.
However, rape and murder were very serious offences and needed to be punished in a way that would satisfy the interests of society.
“This kind of brutality is regrettably too a part of life in South Africa. Courts are expected to send out a clear message that such behaviour will be met with the full force and effect of the law,” she said.
“The legislature is concerned about this and so too should we be.”
Cossie said she had kept in mind that alcohol consumption had played a role in Alexander's murder, as suggested by the defence.
However, this was one of many factors to consider.
“Society expects that offenders such as this one before court today should be punished for such offences and, if possible, be totally removed from the community at large,” she said.
With regards to Mare's murder, it was clear he had abused the trust that the Mpumalanga resident had in him.
“Instead of helping the deceased look for work as promised and take care of her while her friend and mother were away, he used the opportunity to violate her and showed no remorse by denying that he killed her, only admitting that he violated the corpse and nothing further.” - Sapa