R v Ramaema (CRI/T/37/00)

Case No: 
Media Neutral Citation: 
[2003] LSHC 83
Judgment Date: 
6 August, 2003




In the matter of:






Delivered by the Honourable Mr. Justice W.C.M. Maqutu On the 6th August, 2003.

This is a judgment on the existence extenuating or non-existence of extenuating circumstances. This issue of the existence or non-existence or non-existence of extenuating circumstances has troubled this court and the court of Appeal for some time. At this stage, for the trial court stand in place of society and it has to weigh all factors and come to a decision. The trial court has to determine whether there are factors and circumstances that in the minds of reasonable people might reduce the moral blameworthiness of the accused.


In African Society, we say men are similar only because they both grow a beard, what they think and what they decide cannot be consistent. It just depends on the way they see things on that particular day at that particular moment. The Court of Appeal - faced with the issue of extenuating circumstances - found extenuating circumstances in respect of a hit-man, a person who had been employed to go and kill somebody. I found in such a case, some courts might have found that there were no extenuating circumstances and sentenced that person to death. The person they had killed in R V Mothobi (whose citation is not available at the moment). The murder victim was the bank manager, Mr. Kimane. Clearly, many people in society might not agree with the Court of Appeal. But that was the way the Court of Appeal found - that is how they weigh the facts before them and came to a finding.

If this court were we minded not to think like the Court of Appeal on that occasion, we might find there would be no extenuating circumstances here. But as it turns out they were at large in weighing things carefully in our own way and came to their own finding. There might be no way the accused who masterminded of this crime and whose greed led to the death of this man could escape. Accused got the co-accused to go and rob the deceased of his vehicle because the deceased had a similar vehicle to that of the accused -which was now too old. True to what the accused had decided, when the vehicle was brought, he changed its plate numbers and had the impertinence to come and implicate his younger brother. This accused is shameless in that respect.

He went and said his younger brother changed the plate numbers of that vehicle when the accused himself had done that according to accused's own plan. He had no shame to do this in the yard of his father, and his father came and sat (in the dock) there as the first accused. As if that is not enough he did not even pay those thieves of his - that he had employed to go and rob this dead man. The accused is a user, he uses other people.

But then we have to deal with the issue of extenuating circumstances. Well, counsel has said his plan was naive in the extreme, that fact is clear. He saw the eggs but he did not see the trap, now a man has died. But a society expects a man to look further than his nose, and the law imputes on him the guilt of the people who actually carried out the robbery on his behalf. That guilt is on accused's shoulders by virtue of the law.

If the Court of Appeal had not found a hit-man who was employed for gain to go and kill a person, and if the Court of appeal had not found exterminating circumstances in that case, I would have found it impossible to have found extenuating circumstances in this case. But since this issue of extenuating circumstances has been made elastic, and I find extenuating circumstances exist. My assessors agree with me. However, I must add that, if we had chosen not to find extenuating circumstances we would be morally justified. Therefore, the accused is lucky.

Stand up accused - in this case extenuating circumstances have been found. You may sit down.


Stand up accused. I have heard your counsel. We found it very difficult to find any facts that could mitigate your sentence. You see, all people have families and people who commit offences bring sufferings to those families and on their own families. So for your counsel to say we should look at the tragedy that your family will suffer as a result of your actions, someone else could with justification say, what about the deceased person's family and his loved ones. Therefore, that argument does not help me or the accused at all. And I have already said there is nothing whatsoever that I can see as a mitigating factors. You cruelly treated your father. He was there in the dock with you, an innocent man. For years he has been coming for remands, charged with a robbery he did not know. Your wife suffered just as much too. If you had not done this, your wife should not have been an accused person in and out of courts. So you see you have sinned against your own family. You have sinned against the family of the deceased and the deceased himself who is dead, you have sinned against this society by taking away one of its members.

Now this court has to face another difficult issue of escalating crime, but then, it is not by the most severe sentences that crimes will ever came to an end. Crimes will always be there and will always continue, but those who commit them are unfortunate, they will be punished in this world, if they are found out and in the next one by God.


Now crown counsel said quite clearly that you should be given a life sentence, a man like you deserves that but my assessors and I reluctantly feel you should not get a life sentence and of course many people will not agree with us, but then, we have that responsibility of the moment.

Now, the least and the most moderate sentence is that of twenty five (25) years imprisonment. Since we had already, in punishing you in the past, taken into account the very factors that Crown Counsel has ably put before us, the issue that we found hard is that of making sentences run concurrently. But after some reflection we will also (as a matter of leniency) make this sentence for murder of twenty five (25) years concurrently with fifteen (15) years for robbery that the Court of Appeal has imposed on you.

You don't deserve a sentence of this moderate kind. If you were here in my place you probably would not have given a sentence as moderate as this one. But I and my assessors are convinced that crime will never be abolished by severe lengthy imprisonment. In fact, many people prefer to be hanged as you should have been than serving sentences of over twenty years. Then who knows, you may repent and be a very useful citizen at the end. At the moment you are not such a person, you are selfish, other people don't mean a thing to you. From your family and the rest of society. I have avoided giving a life sentence in the hope that you might repent and be a useful citizen in future.



FOR CROWN : Mr. Putsoane

FOR DEFENCE : Mr. Phafane