A 30-year-old man was sentenced to 17 years behind bars for a hate crime by the High Court sitting in the Ceres Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
In January, Judge Siraj Desai found Christo Oncke guilty of the brutal assault and murder of a gay man, Dawid Olyne, in March 2014. Olyne was tied up and set alight while he was still alive.
During argument in aggravation of sentence, State prosecutor Advocate Ntsoaki Mabilietse said the murder was very brutal.
“The deceased was severely assaulted, strangled, tortured, tied up and set alight while still alive. The court ruled in its judgement that this was a hate crime. The gay community has a right to be protected as it has become common for members of this community to be assaulted everyday.”
She asked the court to hand down a life sentence, but Judge Desai on Wednesday deviated from the minimum sentence required by legislation, as he found compelling and substantial reasons to do so.
He found that the accused, while he had initiated the assault, had not acted alone. The judge requested the investigating officer not to close the case, so that should further evidence be uncovered, others responsible could be arrested.
Judge Desai also found that Oncke’s diminished intellectual capacity was a mitigating factor. And while Oncke had six previous convictions, they were for “petty” crimes.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson for the Western Cape, Eric Ntabazalila, said Oncke maintained his innocence throughout his trial.
“He has admitted that he hit and kicked the deceased and that they had a physical fight, but denied that he tied him up, burnt him or killed him,” said Ntabazalila.
“He alleges that he was walking down the road to a ‘hokkie’ in Ceres which youngsters visit to smoke drugs. He alleges Olyne called him and they had a conversation and the deceased wanted to have sex with him.”
Oncke claimed Olyne threw a stone at him when he refused to have sex, and the two began fighting. But he said when he left, the victim was still alive.
Judge Desai said the the murder “had the hallmarks of a hate crime”.
He acknowledged that homophobia was prevalent in the community and said he had asked the Human Rights Commission and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to run a programme on issues of gender and homosexuality.
The NPA has welcomed the sentence.
South Africa Today – South Africa News