Mahikeng -The hefty sentences handed down to two men convicted of murdering Coligny teenager Matlhomola Mosweu over sunflower heads worth R80 was widely welcomed on Wednesday.
Acting government communications head Phumla Williams also called on political parties to work together to foster reconciliation in Coligny and to mend the divisions caused by Mosweu's death.
"The task of building a safe and prosperous South Africa requires a social pact amongst all South Africans. Working together with government, communities should act against perpetrators of violence and ensure that justice through official platforms continues to prevail," she said.
North West High Court judge, Ronnie Hendricks, sentenced Pieter Doorewaard, 28, and Phillip Schutte, 35, to an effective 18 and 23 years respectively for killing the 16-year-old.
They were further sentenced to three years for kidnapping, two years for intimidation, one year for theft and two years for pointing of a firearm. This would run concurrently with the murder count.
The pair killed Mosweu on April 20, 2017 by pushing him out of a moving van after they found him stealing sunflower heads worth R80 at their employer's field at Rietvlei farm near Scotland informal settlement.
Moshoeu's death sparked violent protests that left six houses and three trucks torched. Several businesses were looted and damaged and racial tensions flared.
"Throughout the trial, there were tensions in the small North West town and government hopes the finality of this matter will bring about peace and harmony in the town. South Africans should not allow actions like that of the two men to divide our country and communities," Williams said.
North West provincial police commissioner, lieutenant-general Baile Motswenyane, also welcomed the sentences.
She commended the investing team, led by Brigadier Kgorane, as well as the prosecution, for their "tireless efforts" that contributed towards the conviction.
Motswenyane said that the sentence would serve as a deterrent and send a clear message that "the long arm of the law" would show no mercy to perpetrators of crime.
Moshoeu's father, Sakkie Dingake, said he had expected the court to impose life sentences.
"I have not accepted that my child is dead, it is painful for me. I am still hurt," he said.
However, family spokesman Stan Mnyakama said they welcomed the sentence and respected the court's decision. "[A]fter the judge articulated facts he had to consider, we then agreed that he is right; if they are first offenders there is nothing we can do, but I am happy with the 20 years behind bars."
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) in North West also welcomed the sentence.
"Initially we would be very happy if we got life imprisonment, but, after listening carefully to the judge's sentence, we are accepting the sentence and we are happy, we feel the sentence is appropriate," said acting spokesperson advocate Tembeka Mbandu.
Handing down the sentence, Hendricks said he had to consider that the murder was not planned, there was no intention to kill the teenager and the duo were first offenders. As such he deviated from imposing life sentences.
African News Agency (ANA)