In a case likely to set a significant legal precedent, a Fort Beaufort man was yesterday found guilty of murdering three Bedford children after he "recklessly" drove a stolen car into them during a high-speed car chase.
Acting Grahamstown High Court Judge John Grogan sentenced Sonwabo Qeqe, 31, to an effective 18 years in prison for the three murders and the theft of a motor vehicle.
The case, says Eastern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Lungi Mahlati, has "massive" legal significance – not least of all for musician Molemo "Jub Jub" Maarohanye, who is facing charges in Gauteng in a case with similar circumstances.
In June last year, Qeqe had "recklessly" driven a stolen car through Bedford with police in hot pursuit.
The chase took place at 2pm when dozens of schoolchildren were flocking out of their schools and into the streets.
At a T-junction, he had attempted to cut a corner, hitting and killing a child who had been on the sidewalk.
The car then careened across the road and hit and killed two more children on the opposite sidewalk.
Amaza Lupuwana, aged 2, Zuqhame Jantjies, 7 years, and Sandisiwe Dikana, aged 9, died of horrific injuries on the scene.
Judge Grogan said that "no reasonable, law-abiding person" would have driven in such a manner in a built-up area.
He said Qeqe had been aware of pedestrians in the streets but had continued to drive recklessly.
"(Qeqe) must have known that … someone could be struck by vehicle." He said that Qeqe had been in possession and control of an instrument "no less lethal" than a firearm and he had used it with "fatal effect".
Qeqe was found guilty of murder dolus eventualis, which means he had an "indirect intention" to kill the three children.
In terms of the law the State had to prove that Qeqe foresaw the likelihood that his reckless driving through township streets filled with pedestrians could result in a fatal accident, but had recklessly disregarded this outcome.
In giving sentence, Grogan said Qeqe had sought only to evade police and put his own interests first.
There was continuing "carnage" on South African roads as a result of reckless driving. "In this case the recklessness went beyond ‘taking a chance’. It was a deliberate act in which (Qeqe) deliberately ignored the safety of the public, with tragic consequences that must have been foreseen by him as a possibility."
He said the children, who had died, had suffered "horrendous injuries" and their families had been left devastated by his selfish and reckless actions.
Advocate Mahlati said the terrible facts of this particular case had led to his office to charge Qeqe with murder rather than culpable homicide. He said the "Jub Jub" case could "only benefit" from the guidance this judgment would provide.
Source: Daily Dispatch