S v MABITLE 2017 (1) SACR 325 (NWM)

Murder — Sentence — Factors to be taken into account — Youthfulness and mercy — Contract killing — Sentence of life imprisonment on 20-year-old offender reduced to 25 years’ imprisonment.


The appellant appealed against his sentence of life imprisonment imposed on him in the High Court for the murder of a man whose wife had contracted him to kill her husband, in return for which she promised him R50 000.He claimed to have done the deed out of poverty and the need for money to continue with his studies. At the time of the offence he was a 20-year-old first-year architecture student. He had recently lost all his belongings when he was pushed off a train. He expressed regret for the crime that he had committed, made a confession to a magistrate, and pleaded guilty. He was a first offender and had been in custody for nine months awaiting trial.

Held, that the appellant had not been warned that the provisions of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 105 of 1997 would be applicable and a reference to the Act did not appear in the indictment. The court a quo was accordingly not entitled to impose sentence in terms of that law, and the present court was at liberty to impose sentence afresh. (Paragraph [2] at 326g–h.)

Held, that contract killings or assassination contracts were regarded by our society as particularly heinous. However, the mitigating circumstances, and more especially the youth of the appellant and the need to secure his rehabilitation, were weighty factors that had to be considered in the context of such a crime. Moreover, the injunction to be merciful could also not be overlooked. In the circumstances a sentence of 25 years’ imprisonment, as suggested by the state, would be appropriate.


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