High court orders 2024 parole hearing for Leigh Matthews’ killer Donovan Moodley
Judge Wilson's judgment was scathing of the conduct of the parole board.
Donovan Moodley. Photo: Gallo Images
The South Gauteng High Court has directed the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to set up a new parole board for convicted killer Donovan Moodley by March 2024.
The court set aside the 29 March 2023 board decision that denied Moodley parole, labelling that hearing as “damning” and hostile towards Moodley’s legal representative.
Moodley is serving a life sentence for the 2004 kidnapping and murder of university student Leigh Matthews.
His long quest to be freed saw him launching court actions over the years.
Parole hearing ‘not fair’
Moodley launched the application to challenge the 29 March 2023 parole board’s outcome.
The board requested that he undergo additional psychotherapy treatment before he could be considered for parole again.
Wednesday’s judgment from Judge Stuart Wilson slammed the “deplorable” conduct of the board after it was revealed in court that one board member fell asleep during the parole hearing.
“Moodley’s account of Colonel van Straten’s somnolence was not disputed in the respondents’ answering affidavit.
“Van Straten did not himself depose to an affidavit to dispute it. The facts Moodley alleges are accordingly uncontested. They are also damning.
“Mr Malema [Matthews’ lawyer] argued that the burden was on Moodley to show that Van Straten’s nap made a difference to the outcome of the hearing. I do not think that is the correct approach,” said Wilson.
Furthermore, Moodley’s lawyer was treated unfairly, with the board chairperson being hostile towards him and his client.
“Moodley was not allowed to sit with his legal representative. He was told that he may only consult with his legal representative during breaks.
“The legal representative’s attempts to intervene on his client’s behalf were summarily shut down. A fair hearing was impossible in these circumstances”.
Kidnapping and murder
In 2005, Moodley admitted to abducting Matthews, and holding her hostage while demanding ransom money from her family.
The family paid R50 000 for her safe return, but Moodley shot her three times.
He then placed her body in an open field in Walkerville, south of Johannesburg.
Moodley, now aged 43, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment – 15 years for kidnapping, and 10 years for extortion.
Hearing in 2024
Wilson turned down a request that he direct Justice Minister Ronald Lamola to appoint a judge to chair the board.
Appointing a judge would not be appropriate, he said.
“Judges do not generally “recommend” courses of action. We make orders justified by law.
“No law prescribes to the minister that a retired judge be appointed to a parole board in any given set of circumstances.
“Still, that possibility having been raised, the minister will no doubt give it due consideration.”
He ordered that Moodley’s entitlement to be released on parole be reconsidered by an entirely reconstituted parole board by no later than 29 March 2024.