Durban — The family of an elderly couple murdered on their farm in Verulam feels let down by the justice system after the sentencing of their killers.
Taking into consideration the ages and personal circumstances of the three men at the time the farmers were killed, the court deviated from the prescribed sentence of life imprisonment.
Thobelani Manqele, Sphiwe Shezi and Ndawo Ndlovu were aged 20, 18 and 15 when they broke into the Cottonlands home of Dhir “Roy” Singh, 68, and Kallawathie Beekarie, 65, in September 2018. The farmers, who sold their produce to the Verulam market, were robbed and killed.
Judge Carol Sibiya on Friday in the Durban High Court sentenced Manqele and Shezi to 18 years’ imprisonment for the murders, while Ndlovu received 10 years.
They were also convicted of house robbery as well as robbery with aggravating circumstances and sentenced to 10 years for those crimes.
Speaking outside the court, Singh’s son-in-law, Nishan Ishwarllal, said the family felt let down by the justice system and that the sentences were lenient.
“We are highly disappointed and disturbed by what we heard during the sentencing,” Ishwarllal said.
“The accused killed senior citizens of our country, a woman was killed. They were an old helpless couple who were murdered in their own home. We live in a society that encompasses ubuntu.”
Ishwarllal said the family feared what was becoming of the country.
“We fear that the law is not protecting its citizens, especially the elderly and women in our society. These sentences do not pass a good message, not to the bereaved family, and not to society and the community as a whole. A mother was killed, she was a granny as well. My father-in-law was a dad and grandfather, a religious leader, and lived in a poor community and he saw the need to employ people on his farm.”
Ishwarllal said that while the farm was still being run, the operations were not the same since their parents’ deaths.
“My brother-in-law is going to the farm from time to time to ensure the premises are safe. Unfortunately, we have stopped selling produce at the market.”
During the trial, State prosecutor Khatija Essack led evidence that Singh was stabbed several times with his fishing spear in the neck and chest while Beekarie was forced into a bathtub.
Her hands were tied behind her back, she was forced to kneel and was strangled with cables. Their bodies were found in their locked bathroom.
Several items were allegedly stolen from the couple’s home, including a green Toyota Conquest, cellphones, a TV, a hi-fi, a pellet rifle, a DVD player, a beach umbrella and a microwave oven.
Initially, there were five accused. However, the State withdrew charges against Siyabonga Emmanuel Nhlengethwa and Bonginkosi Freedom Mkhize, who became State witnesses.
Passing sentence, Judge Sibiya said she had considered that the accused had already spent five years behind bars, adding that she had to be guided by the Child Justice Act in sentencing Ndlovu.
“All the accused were first offenders with no history of violence and were young,” she said.
Sibiya said she found compelling personal circumstances. Manqele’s mother died when he was younger and he lived with an aunt who ill-treated him and as a result, he chose to live on the streets, while Shezi had turned 18 just three weeks before the crime was committed.
The sentences will run concurrently.