A Zimbabwean man who was sent to jail for 10 years after making off with almost all of a Delmas farmer’s sheep may appeal against his sentence, which two high court judges described as “very severe”.
Judges Neil Tuchten and Selby Baqwa ruled in the High Court in Pretoria that Calson Mahlangu may appeal against his sentence of ten years and six months’ imprisonment on charges of stock theft and being in the country illegally.
They said there was a reasonable possibility that another court might find that the sentence for stock theft was excessive.
A Nigel magistrate found Mahlangu guilty of stealing 27 Dorper sheep belonging to Delmas farmer De Wet Erasmus and sentenced him to a hefty prison term, saying his deeds amounted to “economic sabotage” and gave foreigners who tried to earn an honest living in South Africa a bad name.
He said it was aggravating that Mahlangu had stolen a whole flock of sheep that he clearly wanted to sell for his own pocket without even a single day’s hard, honest work and that the sentence should send out a clear message to other would-be stock thieves that they could not expect lenient sentences.
Erasmus had asked his brother-in-law to investigate after almost his entire flock of sheep disappeared. His brother-in-law and workers followed the spoor of the sheep to a quarry about ten kilometres from his farm, where the sheep were found bound up with twine and hidden in long grass.
The identification tags had already been forcibly removed from the sheep’s ears, and two of the ewes, which were heavily pregnant, died of exhaustion. Mahlangu was arrested after running away from the scene.
The magistrate rejected his claims that he was just an innocent passerby, and the high court confirmed his conviction.