/ 26 October 2007

Rattray killer sentenced to 25 years in prison

The fifth man arrested for the murder of historian David Rattray was sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment in the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Friday morning.

Zwelihle Mtshali (21) pleaded guilty to one count of murder and one count of attempted robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Judge Achmat Jappie handed Mtshali an 18-year prison term for murder and a seven-year term for robbery. The sentences would run consecutively. He would only be eligible for parole in 18 years.

Rattray was gunned down in his Fugitives’ Drift Lodge home on January 26 this year in a botched armed robbery by six men.

”He [Rattray] was cut down in the prime of his life for absolutely no reason,” said Jappie.

In his statement to the court, Mtshali said he and one of his accomplices were standing guard over Fugitives’ Drift Lodge labourers when he heard two gunshots coming from Rattray’s home.

Moments later he witnessed a woman running out of the house and then the gang of six fled.

Mtshali said he was ”truly remorseful” and was prepared to stand as a state witness.

Jappie said when he considered Mtshali’s sentence, he took into account his deprived background.

”You [Mtshali] have wasted the best years of your life in a gamble to obtain some money at the expense of a life,” said Jappie.

Mtshali was supporting two children by shepherding and could not read or write. He signed his statement to the court with a thumb print.

Jappie conceded that Mtshali’s circumstances may have led to him being influenced by his accomplices, but said: ”Robbery always seems to be the motive that leads to murder.”

The murder of the historian, famed for his knowledge of the history of the KwaZulu-Natal battlefields, made international headlines.

Fethe Nkwanyana (23) and Thembinkosi Ndlovu (24) both pleaded guilty and each received 25-year sentences for their part in the murder.

Simphiwe Ndlovu (25) and Xolani Mpanza (28) both denied any involvement in Rattray’s murder and were still awaiting trial.

Mpanza apparently worked at the lodge previously.

Rattray’s eldest son, Andrew, was present as Jappie sentenced Mtshali, but left the court soon afterwards, declining to comment. — Sapa