Tshiamo Kgalalelo and Mmika Mpe are in the fight for their lives, following their conviction for kidnapping, killing, stealing from and burning an Afrikanner businesswoman in 2014. Yesterday, they told the Lobatse High Court that the incident stemmed from their anger at alleged slave conditions on the farms in the district. Mmegi Correspondent, TUMELO MOUWANE was in court
In a tense and emotional court sitting here yesterday, the two former farmhands asked Judge Abednego Tafa to consider the alleged state of their lives prior to the murder.
Earlier this year, Tafa found Kgalalelo (32) and Mpe (28) guilty in a January 2014 incident in which they waylaid Reinette Vorster, brutally murdering her, stealing from her and then setting her body on fire in her Toyota D4D.
A date with the hangman on the horizon, yesterday was Kgalalelo and Mpe’s last chance to convince Tafa not to impose the death penalty. In papers filed before in the case, it was expected that the farmhands would base their arguments for extenuating circumstances on the hardships experienced on the Okwa Valley, Gantsi farm.
In his testimony, Kgalalelo said he worked inside at Okwa Valley as an unhappy man due to his employer’s mistreatment.
“I worked on the farm for several years and we just worked there but we were mistreated. There were a number of things which we were not happy about, but we could not report these because we were more than 100 kilometres away from the nearest government departments.
“They (sic) were no labour inspections at all. If any were done, it was before I worked at the farm.
“I could not just abandon the job and leave the farm because my employers livestock and his other property would be at risk.”
His attorney, Archibald Gijima said Kgalalelo’s statements to police and judicial officers early in the matter were evidence of a harsh environment at Okwa Valley.
“His situation at the farm bore the hardships of being overworked and having insufficient pay to look after his wife and child. To him, these factors affected what he did.”
According to Gijima, it is also “extremely important and extenuating” that the court find that Kgalalelo was not the one who caused Vorster’s death.
“They tied her up in the bush and my client took the vehicle and drove back to the farm. When he returned he found the woman dead.”
On behalf of Mpe, attorney Themba Joina said the relationship between his client and the murder victim had soured due to ill-treatment and the lack of recourse.
“The relationship between the victim and my client had soured and in some instances he was not being properly addressed or treated.
“The court should also consider that the offence occurred when my client was still in his youthfulness, at 25-years-old, and many courts have taken this factor into consideration,” Joina said.
The veteran lawyer added that the findings in court that Vorster was strangled to death also show immaturity on Mpe’s behalf as well as lack of premeditation, which should also go towards extenuation.
“Something was wrong with him at that moment,” Joina said.
Mpe’s 56-year-old mother also took the stand for her son, testifying that the convict was a humble child who always obeyed his parents. Mpe, the last of four boys and two girls, had shocked the family with his actions in the case.
“Mmika was always a humble child who was reserved. He talked little and he always took instructions from us as parents. He was not violent and never displayed irresponsible behaviour. We were shocked to hear that he committed such a serious offence,” she said.
His sister, Kemelelo Mpe, shared the same sentiments.
“Despite us growing up poverty stricken, my brother never displayed any indiscipline,” she said.
The case returns on November 23 where mitigation will be presented, provided Tafa finds the extenuating circumstances reasonable.
Judgement will be passed at a later stage.