PRETORIA 18 October 1999 - SAPA


Two Pretoria High Court judges on Monday rejected Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging leader Eugene Terre'Blanche's appeal against his 1997 conviction on attempted murder and assault charges. The judges' decision to uphold the conviction could see the 59-year-old right-wing leader serving a six year jail term. Terre'Blanche was sentenced to six years imprisonment by a Potchefstroom Magistrate in 1997 after he was found guilty on attempting to murder one of his black employees and assaulting a petrol attendant at a Ventersdorp garage in 1996. Judge Willie van der Merwe on Monday upheld the conviction, confirmed Terre'Blanche's six year sentence and also declared him unfit to own a firearm. Van der Merwe said the state had proved its case against Terre'Blanche and there was no reason to set aside the convictions. He said both victims had been assaulted severely - one of them to such an extent that he was described as "a vegetable". Terre'Blanche had been proved to be man with a quick temper who easily resorted to violence. The only apt sentence for him was direct imprisonment, van der Merwe said. He would have sentenced Terre'Blanche to an even longer jail term, had it not been for the fact that he received amnesty for his previous convictions from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's amnesty committee earlier this year. The amnesty committee in effect made him a first offender in the eyes of the court, van der Merwe said. Although the state indicated that summons would be served on Terre'Blanche as soon as possible to start serving his sentence, his senior advocate Johan Engelbrecht has not ruled out further appeal procedures. This could include an appeal to the Appellate Division in Bloemfontein, for which leave to appeal must be granted by Judge van der Merwe or by the Chief Justice. If leave to appeal is refused in both cases, Terre'Blanche would have to start serving his sentence. Bail can be extended where an application for leave to appeal was granted. Terre'Blanche sentence resulted from an attack on two Ventersdorp men in 1996. One of the men, Paul Motshabi, 29, who worked for Terre'Blanche's security firm, suffered brain damage as a result of the assault. He was beaten with a blunt object on the head and neck and remained in a coma for some time. Terre'Blanche was also found guilty of assaulting petrol attendant John Ndzima and encouraging his dog to bite Ndzima in a toilet where he tried to hide. Van der Merwe said Magistrate Chris Eksteen had approached the evidence before him carefully and with great self-restraint. He had correctly rejected Terre'Blanche's evidence that he had nothing to do with either of the attacks. He described the attack on Motshabi as particularly serious and cruel. Any sentence imposed had to reflect the seriousness of the crime. Even if one disregarded Terre'Blanche's previous convictions for, among other things public violence, relating to the Ventersdorp siege and an incident in which the late Professor Floors van Jaarsveld was tarred and feathered in the early 1980s, it was clear from the evidence that he was a man who easily resorted to violence, van der Merwe said. Witnesses testified that Terre'Blanche had waged a reign of terror in Ventersdorp and black people in the area especially, feared him. His uncalled for and uncontrolled outbursts in the court were also proof of his quick temper. To argument by Terre'Blanche's advocate that direct imprisonment would severely humiliate him and harm his standing in his community, van der Merwe said the community expected of political leaders to act with self-restraint because others followed their example. Irresponsible behaviour by persons in leadership positions could not be tolerated and should be severely censured. A high standing in the community was no reason for receiving a lighter sentence than any other ordinary citizen. "Our courts were there to help the community to live in harmony. This could only happen if courts could mete out punishment without fear and without regard of persons," van der Merwe said. He stressed the court could not disregard the natural indignation and abhorrence with which the community regarded crimes such as those committed by Terre'Blanche. Community service, linked to some form of payment to the victims, was not an apt sentence and would send out a totally wrong message to the community.


South African Press Association, 1999
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