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Former security guard slapped with 20-year sentence for KZN unrest murder of innocent civilian

Former security guard slapped with 20-year sentence for KZN unrest murder of innocent civilian
Joel Pillay (pictured) was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the murder of Lindani Mthethwa. (Photo: @ApstDeza/X)

Joel Pillay, 38, who shot and killed Lindani Mthethwa on July 21, 2021, during the July looting and unrest in KwaZulu-Natal, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. The sentence was imposed on Monday, 25 March in the Scottsburg High Court.

During the looting and public violence that ensued in various parts of KZN, Lindani Mthethwa was walking on Ireland Street in Verulam when Joel Pillay drove past him, turned his vehicle around, lowered his window, and shot him dead.

Pillay was driving a marked security vehicle equipped with a tracking device when the incident occurred, which placed him at the scene of the crime.

Natasha Ramkisson-Kara, National Prosecuting Authority KwaZulu-Natal Regional spokesperson said: “On 12 July 2021, the deceased, Mthethwa, was walking on Ireland Street in Verulam, when Pillay drove past him.  Pillay, who was driving a marked vehicle owned by a security company, turned his vehicle around and drove back towards Mthethwa. When he was alongside Mthethwa he lowered the window of his vehicle and shot him in the head. Mthethwa died on the scene.”

More than 350 people died in the terrifying maelstrom of events in the July 2021 unrest. Most of those people died in just three days, between the start of Monday, 12 July and the end of Wednesday, 14 July.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “How the reports into the July 2021 unrest let South Africa down”

The mayhem was caused by alleged Jacob Zuma loyalists, who went on the rampage after he was sentenced to 15 months in prison on 29 June, 2021, and ordered to hand himself over to police within five days after being found in contempt of court. Zuma was arrested and imprisoned on the night of 7 July, 2021, after defying an order.

A total of 65 accused have been arrested and set to go on trial in connection with the violence associated with Zuma’s arrest. According to summary facts in the case, Gods Surprise Ntuli is the main accused along with 64 other accused. Together, they face several charges including terrorism, conspiring/inciting the commission of terrorism, public violence, and conspiracy to commit murder.

In that case it is the State’s contention that Ntuli and the others allegedly conspired and incited violence to secure Zuma’s release, which resulted in acts of public violence, looting, disruption of normal activities, loss of life, damage to infrastructure, and destruction of businesses.

Read more in Daily Maverick: “July ’21 unrest — 65 in dock facing terrorism and other charges linked to deadly violence.”

Tracking device

In his arguments in the Mthethwa shooting incident, state prosecutor advocate Thabani Buthelezi led the testimony of two eyewitnesses to his murder. Details of the tracking device installed on Pillay’s vehicle on the day of the incident were also useful to the prosecution.

According to Ramkisson-Kara, Buthelezi also submitted a Victim Impact Statement compiled by Mthethwa’s sister, facilitated by Court Preparation Officer Thandeka Nadi Mofokeng.

“In her statement, the woman stated Mthethwa was a responsible and hardworking person, that her family has been financially and emotionally affected adding that the incident was traumatic, as she still has flashbacks,” she said.

According to Ramkisson-Kara, in sentencing Pillay the court deviated from the minimum sentence of life imprisonment, citing that he was a first offender when he committed the offence. Pillay was sentenced accordingly, and the court found him unfit to possess a firearm,  she said.

Other convictions and sentencing so far in connection with the unrest include:

  • In November 2023 Mdumiseni Khetha Zuma, one of the instigators of the devastating July 2021 civil unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for his part in encouraging others to commit public violence.
  • Five convicted looters were sentenced in the Durban Regional Court. In June 2023 they were found guilty of being in possession of R80,000 worth of meat in their bakkie in the Chesterville township during the riots. The meat had been stolen from nearby Ayoba Cold Storage, which stored meat imported from Brazil.
  • In July 2023, the Durban Magistrates’ Court sentenced Mbuso Moloi to three years in prison, wholly suspended for five years. The sentence included house arrest for 18 months. He was dubbed the “Mercedes looter” after a video of him carrying goods from a Woolworths store in Glenwood, Durban, went viral.
  • In August 2022, the Durban Magistrates’ Court sentenced Sihle Jali and Sifiso Ngcobo to five years in prison for breaking into a shop in Durban’s Greenwood Park and stealing goods.
  • In September 2022, Njabulo Ncube, another convicted July 2021 looter, was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment. He had been found guilty of theft after breaking into a shop in Umbilo and stealing groceries. DM

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • ST ST says:

    20 years! Because it was his first offence?! So someone dies less when killed by someone who has not done it before? Pillar will still be young enough to continue his life. Unlike Lindani who’s family depended on so

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Small fry indeed and the just the ordinary man in the street. These people are those who can’t afford the hideous cabal of lawyers like the odious Mpofu, whose main purpose in life is to deny justice and keep the vile REThieves out of jail. What about the ringleaders who caused all this mayhem, destruction and killing? We know who they are, Cyril the spineless does, as does the vacuous minister of police. Start with the despicable Zuma’s daughter etc. There is obviously 1 law that applies to Joe Citizen, and another to the anc elite, cabal, thieves and criminals. We can see this happening right now with Mapisa Nqakula.

    • simphiwe dzina says:

      “ordinary man” ?…”small fish”,,,,did you actually read the story…of what did the person do…he shot in cold blood an innocent person who he has never met, for no reason whatsoever….he passed he, turned around and drove next to him , lowered the window and shot him in the head… that an action of an ordinary man to you? are you that unfeeling??

  • Ryckard Blake says:

    This is an unbalanced report, devoting not one sentence to Pillay’s defence.
    Did he simply deny it was him, or did he offer any justification along the lines of the victim did not look like an innocent resident of the area, just out for a stroll with his hands in his pockets?
    In the sentencing, I am reminded of the outrageous sentencing of Guilty of Murder against two young white security guards, in Coligny in 2017. The state’s only witness was proved to be lying, but Judge Hendricks bowed to the crowd outside baying for blood, and ignored all evidence by the defence,
    Perhaps the Supreme Court of Appeal will again overturn a prejudiced sentence, in this case against Pillay.
    Give us a more balanced report on the Case, DM. Did the prevailing circumstances (terrifying riots, 350 killed, billions of looting and damage to property, what many believed was a general insurrection taking off) not count as heavily mitigating?

  • Ryckard Blake says:

    What has the claim that the victim ” . . was a responsible and hardworking person, that her family has been financially and emotionally affected”got to do with sentencing? Should “Victim Impact Statement compiled by Mthethwa’s sister, facilitated by Court Preparation Officer Thandeka Nadi Mofokeng” even be admitted by the court as aggravation in sentencing? Does killing a millionaire result in a longer sentence than killing an aged layabout?

    And how about the brazen “Mercedes Looter” being found guilty, but being let off without having to serve a single night in jail? Compared to Pillay’s facing 7000 days locked up. Is that proportionate sentencing?

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