'Let him rot in jail'
There were gasps in the public gallery as Mark Scott-Crossley, one of the men who threw farm worker Nelson Chisale to lions at Hoedspruit in January last year, was sentenced on Friday to life imprisonment.
His co-accused, Simon Mathebula, was sentenced to 15 years in prison, three of them suspended for five years, after Judge George Maluleke, who heard the case with assessors Kate Choshi and Elphus Seemele, found circumstances justifying a lesser sentence than the prescribed minimum of life imprisonment.
“That’s what I wanted. Now I’m happy,” said Edwin Mthombeni, of Namakgale, who had queued from early morning for his place in the public gallery, where there was not even standing room when the case started.
Those unable to squeeze inside chanted and toyi-toyied outside.
“I think justice has been done, even though they will make appeals,” he said.
“The judge has been fair. There has been no sign of bias.”
Mamsy Mokwala, also of Namakgale, said of Scott-Crossley: “He’ll go dance with the inmates inside.”
“Let him rot in jail,” someone shouted from the back of the crush of people streaming from the courtroom.
Amid the whistling and ululating of the ecstatic crowd, Scott-Crossley was led quietly from the court with his new wife, Simonetta (née Strydom), whom he married shortly before sentence was passed. His family embraced behind a cordon set up earlier to prevent the cells being mobbed.
‘We will appeal’
“We will most definitely appeal on the merits of the judgement itself and sentence,” Scott-Crossley’s attorney, Charl van Tonder, said afterwards.
“We’ve noted the sentence of the judge, and obviously the defence team together with the family have to discuss further action,” he said.
Scott-Crossley himself said the judgement was not unexpected.
Mathebula’s legal aid-appointed advocate, Mduduzi Thabede, also intends appealing against his client’s judgement and sentence.
For state prosecutor Ivy Thenga, the sentence brought with it relief at the end of “a very long and tiring road”. She is “satisfied” with the sentences, she said.
Chisale was apprehended, assaulted with pangas and tied up in the way an animal would be trussed to a stake in the vicinity of the house of Scott-Crossley on January 31 last year, Maluleke pointed out as he revisited the crime in passed sentence on the killers.
Chisale remained bleeding and tied up for six or seven hours until he was loaded on to a bakkie, taken to the Mokwalo White Lion Project and thrown over the fence, screaming as the animals tore at his body.
Court guidelines are that life sentences be imposed when society needs to be protected from the possibility of a repeat offence or because the offence is so monstrous that it demands
harsh punishment, Maluleke pointed out.
“No crime fits this description more than the one before me and there is no doubt it would warrant this extreme punishment,” he found.
Scott-Crossley had masterminded the enterprise, dragooning his employees to participate in the crime, he said.
Evidence was that he had a history of aggression, violence, defensiveness and general irresponsibility and was in dire need of psychotherapy.
It was only to enable him to work to raise enough money to pay the compensation he had offered his victim’s family that it was recommended he receive a non-custodial sentence, Maluleke found, noting that until he made the offer, Scott-Crossley had been considered a prime candidate for imprisonment.
“In these circumstances, there can be no substantial and compelling circumstances [to justify any less of a sentence than life],” Maluleke ruled.
‘No racial undertones’ to sentence
Mathebula, on the other hand, had limited participation in the crime. He had nothing to gain from the death of Chisale, whom he had befriended and visited.
“More importantly, he disclosed to the police his complicity in the crime shortly after he was arrested,” said Maluleke.
Even though he had pleaded not guilty, Mathebula had taken the court into his confidence about his crime.
The disparity in the sentence imposed on the two killers reflected the extent of their complicity rather than their personal circumstances, Maluleke said.
He emphasised that racial undertones to the case had played no part in the judgement or the determination of sentence. The relationships between blacks and whites in so far as they pertained to farm workers and employers had been relevant but not decisive issues in the case, he said.
“An eye for an eye will only keep the whole world blind,” said Chisale’s niece, Fetsang Jafta.
“At first I felt [it would be better] if they were dead. This morning, they still have their rights. I am pleased with whatever sentence they got,” she said, adding that she was sure Chisale’s common-law wife, Maureen Mubeje, and children would also be relieved when she told them the outcome on her return to Brits, outside Pretoria, later on Friday.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Vusi Pikoli is very pleased with the outcome of the trial, said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Makhosini Nkosi.
He said the sentences will send a strong message that everyone—rich or poor—is equal before the law and that personal circumstances cannot be more important than human life.
The trial of a third accused, Richard Mathebula, no relation, was postponed until November after he fell ill with suspected tuberculosis. A fourth accused, Robert Mnisi, was indemnified from prosecution when he turned state witness.—Sapa