Pretoria - Sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder he did not commit – and spending more than nine years behind bars waiting for his name to be cleared – has left a 31-year-old man bitter.
Kansas Mantoor says he spent the best years of his life in jail, while the real killer is still roaming free.
Mantoor, who has been released from Zonderwater Prison, on Thursday told the Pretoria News that while he is happy to be a free man, he had lost everything.
“It is more than painful. I am traumatised as I knew from day one that I was innocent. I don’t even know this lady (who was murdered), nor her family. Life in prison was difficult, but it was even more difficult to have my family thinking I murdered someone.
“I am down and out. I don’t know what to do with myself after spending all this time in jail. I have no idea how to start picking up the pieces. All I know is that I want the authorities to pay me damages for what I had to go through.”
His co-accused, Osman Moosa, 70, was also sentenced to life imprisonment after it was found he hired Mantoor to kill his wife. Moosa was, however, on bail all these years.
The pair are now considering suing the judiciary – including the judge – for the injustice they suffered.
Mantoor had been in jail since his arrest in 2005 for the murder of Amina Osman.
Moosa, although on bail, said the accusing looks from the small community in Ogies, Mpumalanga, where he lives with his son, made everyday life difficult.
Osman Moosa jnr said his dad had aged considerably while he had the sword of a life sentence hanging over his head. “We all knew from the start he was innocent. It has been an extremely difficult time for all of us and we spent about R700 000 in legal and other fees. My mother’s killer is still running free, while we must try to make ends meet. I want the authorities to pay us back the money we have lost,” the son said.
Their lawyer, Zahir Omar, said Mantoor, an innocent man, suffered for nearly 10 years in custody and Moosa, a grandfather, had to endure the community pointing fingers at him.
While he is considering suing for damages, Omar said the rules of court stipulate that a judge cannot be sued unless this is approved by the judge president. “There is no precedent in our country of a judge having successfully being sued for damages,” said Omar.
The pair were vindicated when a full bench of the North Gauteng High Court overturned their convictions and sentences.
Judges Vivian Tlhapi, Dawie Fourie and W Hughes, said the court which sentenced the pair, should have accepted their evidence that they were innocent.
There was no direct evidence against the two men – no murder weapon was found, no forensic evidence connecting them with the murder and nobody saw them at the scene.
They were convicted in 2007 by Judge Ferdi Preller of premeditated murder. The judge at the time described the killing of Amina as a contract murder and found that there were no extenuating circumstances to warrant a lesser sentence than life.
Moosa and Amina were married for 37 years when she was killed in December 2004. Her skull was crushed by someone who hit her over the head after she opened the kitchen door to them.
The court was told that she never opened the door for anyone she did not know. Her daughter-in-law discovered her body when she returned home from work.
Amina’s sister, Rasija Kara, at the time testified that she had been speaking to her on the phone that afternoon. There was a knock on the door and her sister asked her to hang on, as she did not expect anyone. Kara hung up the phone when her sister failed to return.
Amina’s body was discovered 40 minutes later.
According to Kara, three months before the killing, Moosa threatened to have his wife killed.
Moosa denied any knowledge of this, saying while they had their fair share of problems, they had a good marriage.
He said he had breakfast with his wife on the morning of her murder and then left for work. Later his daughter-in-law phoned to tell him his wife was dead.
From the outset, Mantoor denied any knowledge of the incident and said he didn’t know the couple. While he could not remember what he was doing on the day of the murder, he said he was not in the vicinity.
Sipho Mvundla, who knew both the accused, testified Moosa gave him R1 000 “to do a job”, but didn’t specify what job.