Businessman Rajivee Soni, 37 was sentenced to an effective 30 years imprisonment for the murder of Dr Bhavish Sewram. Picture: Shan Pillay/African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Durban - “I would exchange my life for his if I could.”

Those were the words of Parmanand Sewram, 70, speaking about his son, Dr Bhavish Sewram, 33, who was gunned down by a hitman in 2013.

On Friday in the Pietermaritzburg High Court, the mastermind behind his son’s killing, businessman Rajivee Soni, 37 was sentenced to an effective 30 years imprisonment for the murder.

After the sentencing, Sewram senior spoke about the loss of his son and the impact the tragedy has had on his family.

“Although there was a sense of relief when judgment was passed, nothing will bring back my son. The loss of a child via a despicable deed is a loss that can never be overcome,” he said.

“We, as a family, would like to thank the investigating team, the prosecutor and the investigating officer for the excellent work done. Thanks also go out to family, friends and the community for their support and encouragement during this difficult time,” said Sewram.

He added that the family were disappointed that Soni would not spend a lifetime behind bars.

“I would exchange my life for (Bhavish’s) if I could,” said Sewram.

Soni was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for murder, 5 years for defeating the ends of justice, 18 months for assault and 5 years for conspiracy to commit murder. The sentences for the secondary charges will run concurrently with the other two sentences, effectively resulting in 30 years imprisonment.

The sentencing brought a trail of intrigue, jealousy and destruction to an end. It started when Soni thought his wife and friend, Bhavish Sewram, had become involved in a romantic relationship.

During the trial, the court heard that Soni shared a close friendship with Bhavish Sewram until January 2012, when he became angry after suspecting the affair.

Deciding to take revenge, Soni influenced two women on two separate occasions to lay false charges of sexual assault against Bhavish Sewram. The campaign to ruin the doctor’s reputation continued, with evidence showing Bhavish Sewram endured threats and intimidation. Soni also hired people to shoot at the doctor with a high-powered paintball. Sewram sustained injuries in the attack.

Soni then decided he had to kill his former friend and approached Brian Treasurer, a former policeman, with an offer of R100 000 to carry out the deed.

Treasurer enlisted the help of Mfaniseni Nxumalo and Sabelo Dlamini to help him and on May 13, 2013, the trio drove to the doctor’s surgery. Treasurer waited in the vehicle while Dlamini got out and shot Bhavish Sewram, who died at the scene.

The trial lasted five years.

In aggravation of sentence, senior State advocate Johan du Toit handed in a victim impact statement by Bhavish’s father, Parmanand Sewram. It highlighted how his family relied on the deceased for emotional, as well as financial, support. In the statement, Bhavish was described as a kind-hearted person who contributed to the healthcare of the community.

The accused’s co-conspirators, Treasurer, Dlamini and Nxumalo had previously been sentenced. Dlamini had pleaded guilty to the murder and had received a 25-year-sentence, while Nxumalo and Treasurer were sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2015.

Treasurer died earlier this year while serving his sentence.

After the sentencing, Soni applied for leave to appeal, which was granted and set down for November 21 at the Durban High Court.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal, advocate Moipone Noko, welcomed the sentence and conviction.

“I hope this sentence will assist in curbing the scourge of violence and killings that is currently reigning in our province,” said Noko.

Independent on Saturday