House robber told to not use poverty as an excuse to commit crime


Magistrate Theosophy Leshaba became philosophical when sentencing a thief.

The accused, Sonwabo Bongazi (25) was found guilty of housebreaking and theft on 7 September in the Randburg Magistrates’ Court.

State prosecutor, Linda Dlamini told the court that on 1 March, Bongazi unlawfully and intentionally entered a house in Ferndale, where he stole a modem, prepaid meter and a charger.

Legal aid lawyer, Tuelo Thomas said Bongazi pleaded guilty to the charge. In his affidavit read in court, he explained how he gained entry to the house that he broke into.

“I jumped over the wall and entered the house. I was found hiding in the house. I admit that my conduct was wrong,” Thomas read out.

In mitigation, Thomas asked the court to have mercy on the accused. He asked the court to consider that Bongazi was still quite young and asked that the court impose a non-custodial sentence.

Thomas went on to mention that Bongazi took the court into his confidence and demonstrated remorse.

“He didn’t waste the court’s time with a lengthy trial. He pleaded guilty from the outset.”

However, the state prosecutor pleaded with the court to impose a sentence that will send a strong message to others who might want to commit the same crime. Dlamini told the court that indeed the accused’s personal circumstance must be considered but also pointed out that the interest of the community and the nature of the offence must also be taken into account.

She added that communities look up to the courts to hand down sentences that are just.

Dlamini added that the accused pleaded guilty because he had no defence. She pointed out that Bongazi had three previous convictions for similar offences.

In 2012, he was sentenced to four years imprisonment, of which one year was suspended for five years. In August 2016, he was found guilty of possession of stolen property. He was given a three-year suspended sentence. Dlamini added that in November last year, he was also found guilty of theft and was given a three-month suspended sentence.

Bongazi admitted to all the previous convictions.

Leshaba pointed out that the previous convictions were disturbing as they were the same as the current one, adding that all the courts had given the accused a second chance but the sentences didn’t seem effective.

“Spending time in prison didn’t rehabilitate you,” Leshaba said.

She went on to tell Bongazi that she understands he had a tough upbringing but told him that should not be an excuse for him to commit crime. The magistrate told him that he can wash cars or find gardening work to earn a living. “Breaking into people’s house is not a way to make a living,” she added.

Leshaba told Bongazi that with this sentence, the court was giving him a long rope with which to hang himself.

He was given eight-year sentence wholly suspended for three years.

ALSO READ: 18-year-old found guilty of theft at a Diepsloot School

Belinda Pheto

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