Eleven months after Alexandria farmer Riaan Scheepers was brutally attacked – he died three weeks later – his killers have been sentenced to life in prison by the Makhanda (Grahamstown) High Court.
The attack happened on November 25 2017, between 8.30am and 9am, when Scheepers and a farm worker, Liefie Breakfast, had returned to the farmhouse after walking in the fields.
Scheepers endured a severe beating, sustaining two skull fractures and two facial fractures as well as multiple stab wounds and lacerations.
According to SAPS, the farm worker was also beaten but was not badly injured. He managed to escape the attack and fled towards a neighbouring farm to call for help.
Scheepers injuries’ were so severe he was induced to a “medical” coma to allow swelling on the brain to subside. He never regained consciousness and died on December 19.
Siphamandla Petse, 24, and Bulelani Zozi, 21, were found guilty of murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, house burglary with intent to rob and robbery, and illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition.
Today the high court sentenced them as follows:
Count 1 – House burglary with intent to rob and robbery – 5 years
Count 2 – Robbery with aggravating circumstances – 15 years
Count 3 – Murder – life imprisonment
Count 4 – Illegal possession of firearm – 5 years
Count 5 – Illegal possession of ammunition – 2 years.
The sentences will run concurrently.
Petse was a first-time offender and Zozi had a prior rape conviction.
Judge Clive Plasket stated that in his view the attack was extremely violent, and both accused participated in the attack. The robbery and attack were well planned. The house was held under observation for a lengthy period of time until the opportunity arose to commit the crime. The victim was attacked in the sanctity of his home and given his age and disability from an accident a number of years ago, would have had little chance of escaping from his attackers.
Although both Petse and Zozi pleaded guilty to four of the counts, this was viewed as an open and shut case, and was not seen as a factor in mitigation. Neither of the men showed any serious remorse for their actions.
Judge Plasket also stated that according to evidence led, Scheepers was both a mother and father to his children following the death of his wife a number of years ago. He was also a pillar of the community serving as the chairman of the local old age home, treasurer of the local farmers association and serving on the church council. The death of the deceased has had a profound effect on his family, community and employees.
Weighing up the evidence, the judge found no compelling reasons to depart from the prescribed sentences. Both accused were found to bear equal responsibility for the crimes committed.
Petse and Zozi made an application for leave to appeal the life sentence.
Plasket ruled that in his opinion another court would not reach a different conclusion and that their application had no prospect of success and as such leave to appeal the life sentence in respect of the murder charge was dismissed.
Agri Eastern Cape chairperson for rural safety, Alfonso van Niekerk, said that “justice has been served, and there is finally closure for the family”.
Brent McNamara, chairman of the Alexandria Agriculture Association, said Agri Eastern Cape would “continue to engage with the SAPS to improve rural safety strategy in our farming and rural areas”.
Agri Eastern Cape released a statement congratulating the Port Alfred police cluster commander, Brigadier Morgan Govender, communications officer Captain Mali Govender, SAPS lead detective Captain Leon Els who has since retired, Sergeant Bakkes and Constable Gxogxo who took over the investigation, and the rest of the SAPS detective unit members and the National Prosecuting Authority team, led by Advocate Obermeyer, for their “sterling detective work, and perseverance to bring these perpetrators to justice”.