Hemrani Brijlal's murder was planned by her domestic worker.
Durban - Two men were sentenced to life imprisonment and a former domestic worker to an effective 23 years by the Durban High Court yesterday for the murder of her employer, Shallcross pensioner Hemrani Brijlal, two years ago.

After Judge Mahendra Chetty passed sentence, Brijlal’s husband, Anandram, was in tears as he hugged State advocate Khatika Essack, who assured him his former employee, Happiness Mkhize, 35, would be in jail for a long time.

Mkhize was regarded as the mastermind. She brought Doctor Vitus Mabhida, 41, and Sibongiseni Patric Gumbi, 31, to the Brijlal home pretending to enquire about a fridge that was for sale.

A fourth person, Mkhize’s cousin Pinky Nonkululeko Cele, 32, was acquitted last week after no evidence was found to suggest that she had committed the crimes.

The two men attacked Hemrani, 65, with a brick and strangled her. The judge said the killing appeared to be “only to leave no evidence behind”.

Bespectacled Mkhize sat a distance away from Mabhida and Gumbi in the dock and walked down the stairs to the cells, expressionless, after sentence was passed. She has already spent two years in custody.

During yesterday’s hearing, Gumbi exchanged glances and whispers with a young woman in the gallery who started weeping when the judge announced his life sentence.

Before proceedings began, Anandram said he wished for the trio to receive the maximum sentence.

“It (Hemrani’s murder) has been on my mind all the time. Every day,” he said.

The couple had three sons and five grandchildren.

After sentence was passed, Anandram was too emotional to speak.

The only dividend from the robbery was R600 the intruders found in the house, the court heard.

Judge Chetty dismissed it as insignificant that Mabhida had been smoking rock cocaine before the robbery and murder, saying there was nothing to show that he did not know what he was doing.

He also dismissed a claim by Gumbi, during evidence in mitigation of sentence, that he had turned to crime to escape the trap of poverty.

“What message would that then give to countless people trapped in poverty?” the judge said, referring to what would have happened had he accepted Gumbi’s excuse.

He referred to Hemrani as “a valuable member of senior citizen society”.

Judge Chetty sentenced all three to 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances. Mkhize, who stood and watched while her former employer was murdered, was given 18 years for murder, and Mabhida and Gumbi were sentenced to life.

He ordered that 10 years of Mkhize’s sentence run concurrently with the rest of her sentence and that Mabhida and Gumbi’s 15-year sentence for robbery run concurrently with their life sentences.

The Independent on Saturday