File photo

Johannesburg - A 17-year-old boy has been sentenced to eight years in prison for murdering a man by repeatedly stabbing him in the face and neck.

The State argued in the Johannesburg High Court on Wednesday for a stiffer sentence, and said the murder was motivated by race.

The State argued that Johan (not his real name), who is white, was angry because the black man he killed, Ntshola Modise, could not speak English. The defence claimed Modise had insulted the teenager.

Johan, who was 16 at the time of the incident, had already pleaded guilty in June to murdering Modise in Randfontein last year. Modise, 59, was stabbed several times in the head, neck and back. On sentencing the teenager, Judge Nico Coetzee took into account Johan’s age.

In his guilty plea, Johan said he became angry when Modise used a derogatory term about his mother despite the two speaking different languages. He then chased the man and stabbed him repeatedly while they were both on the ground.

While arguing for sentencing, State advocate Lethabo Mashiane said “the race card played a big role” and called for 12 years’ imprisonment for a “horrible case of murder”.

Johan’s defence advocate, Jurie Hayes, argued for a lesser sentence because of his client’s age and “unhappy and unstable upbringing”. He said much of this was caused by his mother’s suicide when Johan was a young child.

But Mashiane argued that apart from his mother’s suicide, Johan had a “perfect upbringing” - he had a financial trust, visited a private psychiatrist and attended a private school. He said many other children who had parents who committed suicide did not go on to murder.

Initially, three teenagers were charged with the murder, but two had their cases withdrawn on June 12 after Johan’s confession.

In his plea, Johan said the three had walked through a field in Dwarskloof, Randfontein, and carved their names into tree barks with knives. They then came across Modise, and Johan tried to speak to him in English, but they could not communicate properly.

Johan claimed that Modise used a Zulu word that he said he understood to be a slur about his mother’s private parts.

This angered him and he claimed he shoved Modise in the chest, and Modise retaliated by hitting him on the jaw.

Johan then pulled out his knife and chased Modise, who was running away.

Grabbing Modise’s clothes with his free hand, the two fell to the ground. Johan said he then landed on Modise and started stabbing him with his knife. “I ceased stabbing when he did not offer resistance any further,” said Johan’s guilty plea.

Some passers-by then fired a warning shot and the teenager fled.

“I know I have done a horrible act and I am sorry for what I have done,” said Johan.

[email protected]

The Star