The High Court of South Africa: Free State Division sitting in Bethlehem has sentenced a 29 year-old man to an effective 33 year jail term for murder and robbery.
Tshepo Moleleki who hails from Bolata in Phuthaditjhaba, Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality was convicted after the murder of a taxi driver, Benedict Malebo, in 2018.
Malebo’s e decomposing remains were found buried in a shallow grave in Moleleki’s bedroom, in an incident that left the local community shell shocked.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) provincial spokesman Phaladi Shuping said when the owner of the Quantum taxi saw that Malebo was not returning with the vehicle he tried to call him on his cellphone but only got through to voicemail.
It is then that the owner activated a tracking company which found the vehicle in Pretoria being driven by Moleleki, who claimed he had hired it from the deceased.
Shuping said Moleleki was arrested but not prosecuted until the shock finding of Malebo’s body inside the house he (Moleleki) lived.
The horror finding came after Malebo’s father reported a missing person case with the police when his son failed to return home two days after he vanished with Moleleki.
Malebo, who was last seen in the company of Moleleki, had been asked by the accused for a special trip to Pretoria in Gauteng.
Shuping said: “Malebo was approached by Moleleki who wanted a special trip from Phuthaditjhaba to Pretoria. They left the taxi rank together and that was the last time Malebo was seen alive.”
He added: “The owner of the taxi called Malebo later in the evening when he realised that he had not returned the vehicle and his phone was on voicemail. He called a tracking company and the vehicle was traced to Pretoria. It was driven by Moleleki who claimed that he hired it from Malebo for two days.”
On 25 September 2018, Malebo’s father opened a missing person case at Phuthaditjhaba Police Station after his son was not seen or heard from for three days.
The deceased’s skeletal remains were recovered by the owner of the house in which Moleleki stayed, in a shallow grave in the bedroom, on 16 July 2019. The owner was Moleleki’s relative.
Presiding over the matter, Judge Mpina Mathebula sentenced Moleleki to 20 years for Malebo’s murder and another 13 years for robbing of the vehicle.
Mathebula said the offences committed by the accused called for a harsh punishment.
Prosecutor Dansi Mpemvane stated that even though the state evidence was purely circumstantial, it all points to Moleleki.
Mpemvane said Moleleki had failed to give a proper explanation as to how he ended up driving the vehicle to Pretoria.
“He is the last person to be seen with him (Malebo). He was in possession of the vehicle that was entrusted to the deceased. He was found in possession of the deceased’s wallet, driver’s license and identity document. Above all, the body of the deceased was discovered in a house occupied by the accused,” he submitted.
“It is highly impossible that any other person could have killed the deceased in that manner. The state’s version far outweighs the version of the accused,” he added.
The Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the Free State, Advocate Navilla Somaru praised the work done by the prosecutor and the investigating officer, Warrant Officer Thipa Selepe, in ensuring that the accused is punished for deeds.