March 12 2010 at 01:42PM
By Sherlissa Peters
The "psyche of violence" had South Africa in a "vice-grip", a Pietermaritzburg High Court judge said yesterday when sentencing a young man to 20 years' imprisonment for the murder of Mark William Vroom, and a further 15 years for robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Sisho Msibi, 21, pleaded guilty to the murder and robbery before Judge Kate Pillay, saying that he was extremely remorseful and was willing to testify against his co-accused, Makhosonke Zuma.
Msibi admitted that he and Zuma, along with two others, had decided to rob Vroom, who lived with his brother in the Cato Ridge area, on the night of December 10, 2007.
Zuma is in custody while the other two accomplices are still at large.
On arrival at the house, the attackers found that the door was open, but the security gate was locked.
"We noticed that the bottom of the burglar gate had a grid that allowed pets entry into the house, so we decided that I should enter the house through this grid while my accomplices waited outside," Msibi said.
He entered the house and stole a cellular phone and R400 cash from the table.
Msibi said he then heard a dog barking and realised that the owners of the house were awake.
"I ran to the burglar gate to escape, and as I was pushing myself through the grid, the owners of the house grabbed me and started pulling me back in," he said.
Msibi said Zuma had a knife, while another accomplice had a gun.
He said that that accomplice fired a shot, which struck one of the owners.
They all then fled the scene.
Pillay said it was clear that Msibi had set out with his cohorts to rob a man of not only his possessions, but also his life.
"This was an innocent man who lost his life senselessly, for a cellular phone and R400. People of your ilk have no regard for human life," Pillay said.
"You invaded this man's privacy, his home and then when he attempted to apprehend you, he was shot down in the prime of his life."
Vroom was 51 years old at the time of his murder.
Pillay said it would remain a mystery why Vroom was the chosen victim.
"We are living in a constitutional state where the rights of all people should be respected. It is both sad and alarming that there is not one day that goes by without one innocent person losing their life to senseless and violent crime. The psyche of violence has this country in a vice grip," she said.
The judge said that Msibi and his accomplices had destroyed the lives of both Vroom and his entire family.
However, she said that there were compelling and substantial circumstances in Msibi's favour that justified a deviation from the prescribed life sentence for a crime of this nature.
She said that the fact that Msibi was a first offender, was willing to testify against Zuma, did not pull the trigger that killed Vroom and had pleaded guilty and shown remorse, were factors in his favour, as was the fact that he was a young man capable of rehabilitation.
"But it will still be a long time before you leave prison, and you have brought this misfortune on yourself," Pillay said.
She ordered that 10 years of the robbery sentence run concurrently with the sentence for murder, and that Msibi not be released on parole until he had served at least two thirds of his sentence.