Seventeen years, for MK accused who 'could be another Smuts'

A judge who sentenced a man to 17 years on terrorism charges said the accused was likely to contribute to a future South Africa as much as other statesmen sentenced for violence - men such as Jan Smuts, Louis Botha and BJ Vorster.

Mxolisi Edward Petane, an Umkhonto weSizwe deputy commander, was convicted under the Internal Security Act and of attempted murder. Donen said people would say Petane "did it for us" and suggested Petane would one day be able to "do the same thing", albeit on a smaller scale, as Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and South African statesmen who became prime ministers after being sentenced for violent acts. "It is my own feeling that he is likely to do so," said the judge.

Yesterday Justice Conradie sentenced the 29-year-old MK deputy commander to an effective 17 years in jail - a 12-year sentence for planting a bomb incapable of detonating outside a shopping centre (in what Petane said was a propaganda exercise), and seven years each for two counts of attempted murder.
The seven-year sentences are to run concurrently, and two years of each are to run concurrently with the 12-year sentence.

Petane's culpability lay more in the fact that he risked death and destruction, Justice Conradie said. (Petane said he designed the bomb so it couldn't explode). In considering evidence led in mitigation of sentence by general secretary of South African Council of Churches, the Rev Frank Chikane and Dr Tom Lodge, an expert on the ANC, the judge said he was "not unmindful of the frustration of black people caused by years of political impotence".

Justice Conradie said Petane's sentence "should serve as a warning that courts will not tolerate acts of urban terrorism". Petane's counsel now wants the Appellate Division to consider questions surrounding Petane's claim - earlier dismissed by the judge – to prisoner of war status.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

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