Gynaecologist Dr Danie van der Walt during sentencing proceedings in the Witbank Regional Court this week. Picture: ANA

Witbank - A Mpumalanga gynaecologist has been sentenced to five years imprisonment by the Witbank Magistrate's Court in connection with the death of a woman while giving birth.

Dr Danie van der Walt was found guilty of culpable homicide by the Witbank Magistrate's Court in September last year. 

The doctor's troubles began after his 23-year-old patient Pamela Daweti died while giving birth at the Life Cosmos Hospital in Witbank in 2005. Her baby survived.

Before passing sentence in a packed court room on Thursday, Magistrate Marlene Greyvenstein said Daweti's death might have been prevented if Van Der Walt had remained at the hospital attending to the patient. She was bleeding after giving birth when he left. 

She also lamented the fact that Van Der Walt did not show remorse during the course of the trial, but pointed out that she took into account the fact that Daweti's bleeding was not necessarily caused by Van Der Walt.

"There is no evidence which suggests that the bleeding, which was the cause of Daweti’s death, was necessarily caused by Dr van der Walt," said Greyvenstein.

"I’m not ignoring your personal circumstances. I acknowledge that you are a respected specialist in this profession. I consider the fact that you have no previous convictions. 

"You are of mature age and a valid member of the community, where you provide a much-needed service. But I hold a view that a community-based sentence will not be correct. I’m of the view that the most balanced sentence will be that of imprisonment."

Greyvenstein’s judgment also contained her responses to Van Der Walt’s legal representative, Advocate Mike Helens, who asked the court to impose a suspended sentence coupled with a fine on his client during earlier court proceedings. 

Helens had described Van Der Walt as a pillar of society who was always available to the people he served.

"This is the man who has made himself available to the society," said Helens. "He is an outstanding citizen and a family man."

Presenting the factors in aggravation of sentence earlier, State prosecutor Francois Brandt said it was evident from the start of the trial that the degree of culpability on the part of Van Der Walt was not of a slight nature. He asked the court to impose a prison sentence.

Van Der Walt did not show any emotions after the sentence was passed. 

Agnes Maditjane, the mother of Pamela Daweti, talks to the uncle of the dead woman, Lungi Daweti, after the sentence was passed. Picture: ANA

Daweti's mother, Agnes Maditjane, who was sitting on the first row of the public gallery with a few family members, sobbed occasionally while Greyvenstein was handing down her judgment.

Helens told the court that his client would apply for leave to appeal the conviction and the sentence. 

Greyvenstein said she would grant the accused leave to appeal. Van Der Walt was granted R10 000 bail pending the outcome of the appeal.

Maditjane was too emotional to speak to the African News Agency (ANA) about the sentence, but Daweti's uncle, Lungi Daweti, said his family felt the court did what it had to do in sentencing Van Der Walt to five years imprisonment.

"We will monitor the case and hope he will not get a lesser sentence from the appeal," said Lungi.

A group of about 20 women and children were at the courthouse this week, advocating for a stiff sentence against Dr Danie Van Der Walt. Picture: ANA

A group of about 20 women and children were seen having meals of burgers and drinks outside the court after the formal proceedings. Group leader Angie Sibanyoni told the African News Agency (ANA) they were members of Mother Of All, a non-profit organisation that cared for orphans. 

She said their meals were donated by the Emalahleni Local Municipality, adding they were in court to advocate for a stiff jail sentence for Van Der Walt.

African News Agency