The widow of Muraga Mavula could not contain her emotions as the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria deviated from the minimum prescribed sentence of life in prison, and instead, handed down a lesser sentence to his killers.
Judge Tshifhiwa Maumela on Monday sentenced Schalk Myburgh to 22 years in prison, five years of which were suspended. His son, Schalk Jr, was also sentenced to 22 years imprisonment, of which three years were suspended.
Maumela found that there were compelling and substantial circumstances to deviate from the minimum sentence of life in prison, noting that both Myburghs were first-time offenders, breadwinners in their family, and that the crime was not premeditated.
The sentences imposed did not sit well Mavula's family, who were visibly confused and distraught.
Mavula's wife, Anna, questioned how the court could hand down a lesser sentence, while she had to live with the burden of not having her husband around.
Aware of the possibilities of parole, and that it was not a life sentence imposed, Anna also said that it was unlikely that Myburgh would even serve his full sentence, an effective 17 years behind bars, nor would his son, who is facing 19 years in prison.
"Yoh, I am in pain. So much pain that I have no words. But inside my heart, it is so pained that I feel like crying," Anna told reporters after sentencing.
"What I saw today, and after what they did to my husband, they did it for a purpose."
Anna left the court crying inconsolably.
In December 2015, Mavula was murdered by the Myburghs after they accosted him on the side of the road, accusing him of stealing a goat in Brits, North West.
The Myburghs had just finished construction work at a home nearby and were driving home when they saw Mavula carrying an animal and loading it into his vehicle. According to them, there were two other men present with Mavula.
During the trial, it was revealed that Mavula, with the help of his teenage sons, was out looking for livestock that had wandered off their farm.
Maumela found that the Myburghs had stopped to question Mavula but, instead of seeking clarity, had beaten him to a pulp and then driven over him.
The Myburghs claimed they had acted in self-defence, but Maumela dismissed this and said the attack was unprovoked.
"The accused gave him (Mavula) no opportunity to explain, they just beat him to a pulp," Maumela said during sentencing.
"While the deceased lay haplessly and helplessly, the accused drove over his body with their vehicle.
"I don't think Mavula ever thought that going to look for a lost goat would lead to his death."
Maumela further said the fact that the Myburghs were suspicious did not warrant or justify acting unreasonably and out of kilter with the situation. Mavula was also not a threat to the Myburghs, to the extent that they had to drive over him.
They were also not obliged to involve themselves, they could have phoned the police or neighbourhood watch to deal with the matter, Maumela said.
It is understood that the State may appeal for a stronger sentence, but would have to read the judgment first, while the Myburghs' defence team have indicated that they will be appealing both the sentence and the conviction.