Employees blow whistle on ritual murder by bosses 'to promote business'
A witness says he came forward 16 years later because he suffered from nightmares and would hear voices.
Two Limpopo businessmen and their accomplices have been jailed after their employees testified how a man was kidnapped, his body dismembered, packed and taken to various businesses to “promote their prosperity”.
The victim, Ronny Makgatho, was taken from Soshanguve to Limpopo in 2006 for the ritual murder.
The Polokwane high court has now convicted and sentenced the two businessmen, Joshua Phuthi Hlako and Marcus Maropeng Makgatho, and their co-accused, Amanda Makgatho and Khumbelo Mabirimisa.
Judge Gerrit Muller sentenced Hlako, Marcus Makgatho and Mabirimisa to 22 years' imprisonment for murder, seven years for kidnapping and four years for defeating the ends of justice. The female accomplice was sentenced to seven years direct imprisonment for kidnapping.
The National Prosecuting Authority said Ronny Makgatho was killed in Seshego by Hlako and Amanda Makgatho with their co-accused Mabirimisa, after being abducted in Soshanguve.
Hlako had transport, farming and sale of liquor businesses. Marcus Makgatho was in hospitality.
Ronny Makgatho was Amanda and Marcus's cousin.
During the trial, the court heard that the first state witness, who was testifying in return for indemnity from prosecution under section 204 of the Criminal Procedure Act, had reported the crime after 16 years.
“He testified that he worked for businessman Hlako since 2001 and that all that he was directed to do [participating in the ritual murder] formed part and parcel of his duties. This was put to him to establish why he never reported this matter to the police. He testified that the reason is that his employer Hlako is connected to the SAPS in Seshego, and he was scared that what happened to the deceased could happen to him, an assertion that was never challenged by Hlako,” said NPA spokesperson Mashudu Malabi Dzhangi.
The witness said when he approached the police to report the offence, his fear was confirmed as he was detained, she said. No charges were subsequently levelled against him and he was released. He felt he could not make further attempts to report his boss as he feared the police.
“He was adamant that he was part of the team, and he did it under the instructions of his boss Hlako. He decided later to tell the truth because he suffered from nightmares and would also hear voices.”
Malabi Dzhangi said a second witness also worked for Hlako.
“Both witnesses testified that on the day of the incident, they were with Hlako, Marcus, Mabirimisa and an unknown lady. Knives were brought into the shack, and Hlako was giving instructions.”
One of the group was instructed to write Ronny's name in a notebook before they killed him in a shack at Hlako's homestead.
“The body of the deceased was dismembered, packed and taken to various businesses to promote the prosperity of the business,” she said.
In aggravation of sentence, advocate Kobus Jacobs said the actions of the accused affected the lives of the deceased’s family, relatives, and friends.
The NPA has welcomed the sentence which director of public prosecutions advocate Ivy Thenga said would send a strong message to ritual murderers that the justice system will not tolerate any form of violence against humankind.
The court ordered that the sentences run concurrently with the sentence of murder.
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