Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

Tears flowed down the face of a mother as the Johannesburg High Court sentenced the men who murdered her only son to lengthy prison terms on Thursday.

Then Rosemarie Marks cried out to the judge, decrying the sentence meted out to the man convicted of helping the murderers to conceal their crime. "He is just as guilty as them, his fingerprints were found on the beer bottle," Marks shouted, before her husband restrained her.

Judge Goldstein had just sentenced Osmond Ndlovu and Mondli Dlamini to 23 years in jail each for pummelling their boss, Peter Marks, with their fists and beer bottles before throttling him with an electric cord in the Carlton Hotel's linen room in June 1997.

Petros Vilakazi, convicted of being an accessory to murder for helping the men to clean up the room and hide the body, was sentenced to four years in jail.

Marks, who was the hotel's assistant banqueting manager, had found the men drinking instead of attending to wedding guests. They then attacked him to avoid his taking disciplinary action against them.

Judge Goldstein said that in other circumstances he would have sent the men to jail for life, but there had been mitigating factors.

"The attack was unplanned and occurred on the spur of the moment. Here we clearly had unintelligent men faced with the prospect of losing their jobs in the face of rampant unemployment.

"Under the circumstances, the court is prepared to accept that they panicked," the judge said.

He took into account that the men had been drinking and that the alcohol may have impaired their thinking.

Judge Goldstein said he would have sentenced the killers to 25-year terms for the murder and to six years each for assisting one another, had they not already spent two years in jail awaiting trial.

"They can serve 100 years but nothing will ever bring my son back," Mrs Marks said after the trial.

"They got 23 years but they sentenced us for life."