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Judge throws the book at Gupta gang duo — seven life sentences for each of seven murders

Judge throws the book at Gupta gang duo — seven life sentences for each of seven murders
Khayelitsha skyline. Photographer: [Hilko Hegewisch].

Calling their actions ‘atrocious’, a Cape Town judge imposed ‘sentences that are proportionate to the criminals, the crime and the interests of society’ on two Gupta gang members, who ambushed a house full of partygoers in Khayelitsha in 2020, killing seven people.

On Thursday, 18 April 2024, the Western Cape High Court sentenced two leading members of the Gupta gang from Khayelitsha to life imprisonment for each of the seven murders they committed in 2020. Several others were wounded in the attack, including a six-year-old girl. 

Delivering the judgment, Judge Daniel Thulare said there was no doubt that society expected the criminal justice system “to demonstrate satisfaction of the desire for protection from gratuitous criminality executed with boldness and without shame and with confidence and an untouchable illusion”.

“It is the courts that should take criminals back to reality by imposition of sentences that are proportionate to the criminals, the crime and the interests of society blended with a measure of mercy,” Thulare said. 

“The violence displayed by the accused was simply atrocious, unnecessary and served to increase the blameworthiness of the accused and his companions,” he said.

Gcinithemba “MDriver” Beja and Fundile “Phiri” Maseti, members of a violent extortion gang called the Guptas, a breakaway group from a similar gang called Boko Haram, stormed a Khayelitsha house which was operating as an illegal liquor outlet and began shooting randomly in the early hours of Sunday morning, 7 March 2020.

Beja and Maseti each received seven life sentences for each of the seven murders. They were also each sentenced to five years in prison for each of three attempted murders, 15 years each for the possession of an unlicensed firearm, and another 15 years each for unlawful possession of ammunition. The sentences will run concurrently.

The judgment comes a day after a trail of shootings left eight people dead in Harare, Khayelitsha. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Morning of murders — eight people shot dead in Khayelitsha

Gang feud

In the March 2020 shooting, five people died at the scene and another died shortly afterwards in hospital. Later that fateful night, locals found the body of the seventh victim, a 34-year-old man named in the judgment as “Ntera”, who was the owner of the house and an erstwhile friend of the accused.

The attack in Khayelitsha resulted from a fallout in the battle for extortion turf, which had caused bad blood between the accused and Ntera.

The accused, with others, ambushed Ntera’s birthday party at his home, which was attended by patrons of the liquor outlet as well as Ntera’s friends and relatives.

The victims at the party were innocent attendees who were not involved in gangsterism or extortion, the judge remarked.

Ntera’s daughter, six years old at the time, was not only shot at but also kicked by one of the shooters.

“The attack was intended to send a message to anyone who crossed the path of the Gupta gang, that it was not only the betrayer who was placed in danger but anyone who associated with such [a] crosser,” Thulare said. 

“The City of Cape Town is one of the areas in the Republic which is in the eye of a storm of extortion,” Thulare said.

“The failed expectations, high rate of unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people resulted in many young people, especially Blacks, getting poorer, in the midst of the cost of living that is rising. The poverty, for the greedy and moral ‘factory faults’ of society, has created a fertile environment for crime. Greed has for them made poverty and crime blood cousins,” he said.

Solving the murders

Shortly after the brazen shooting, Beja returned to the scene not only as an onlooker, but also to watch who was talking to the police.

The court heard that he even jumped the police tape barricade to monitor what one community member was saying to the police.

“Mr X”, a witness whose identity remains undisclosed for his protection, was reluctant to go to the police on the day of the shooting after recognising Beja and his friends at the scene of the crime.

He went to the police the next day, but recognised some members of the police whom he knew as being close to the Gupta gang. He testified that they asked him why he was at the police station and told Mr X that he “liked” being there. Mr X was hounded even when he was in police protection.

“He had to be re-routed when the destination to a safe place became known to the Gupta gang, of which the accused were members,” Thulare said.

“The Guptas worked with some police officers and had an established network in their rule by the bullet through gangsterism, forceful demand for ‘protection fees’ and extortion.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape Town cops snitched to ‘The Guptas’ gang, endangering mass shooting witness – judge sounds corruption alarm again

It was Thulare’s second judgment in 18 months that raised suspicions of police officers colluding with gangsters in Cape Town.

In October 2022, Daily Maverick reported on a judgment relating to another gang case in which Thulare found evidence suggesting that 28s gangsters may have infiltrated the Western Cape’s police to such an extent that even its senior management could be affected.

The gangsters may also have had access to crime-fighting plans.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 28s gang ‘capture’ top Western Cape cops, prosecutors’ lives at risk – judge sounds corruption alarm

Daily reality

The judge also pointed out that the murders of rival gangs, random civilians and children were a daily reality, especially for black people, in parts of Cape Town.

“This is a pandemic that is alarming and has engulfed the city. The pandemic results in the prevalence of murders, attempted murders and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.” 

He said Ntera’s sister, also a victim of the shooting, had testified that the trauma she and Ntera’s daughter had suffered was not limited to their physical injuries.

“She had to immediately after the shooting go into induced labour as there was a threat to her unborn child as it was during an advanced stage of her gestation period. Ntera’s six-year-old daughter was shot at and injured, and was also kicked with booted feet by an adult male. After the shooting, the family had to do the ritual cleansing, for which the family had to spend money to ‘wash the blood of the deceased and injured’ from their household,” the judgment said.

As if that were not enough, the family had to move from Khayelitsha and rent property elsewhere because they were too traumatised to stay there.

“She and Ntera’s daughter could no longer live in their home because they had reflections of what happened to them in that house, and relived the trauma daily. This was also the social and economic effect of the crime on them, which was likely to also sustain for some time into the future,” the judgment said.

“The surviving members of the family are being blamed by other families who lost their loved ones, as being the ones responsible for the ambush at the party. The wrong done extends beyond her and Ntera’s daughter and has tainted the whole family name.

“The sins of Ntera and the accused are now visited upon the innocent members of the family.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mike Lawrie says:

    They should have been sentenced to death. Now the taxpayer has to pay to keep them alive. They forfeited their right to life, and did not maintain their obligations to civilised society.

    • MaverickMe says:

      While the sentences are semi-appropriate the fact that they are all concurrent is just smoke & mirrors and great for headlines and soundbites. No prison sentence should ever be concurrent. Criminals like this should never ever be released. Concurrent sentencing might address the specific crimes committed however it is not a deterrent.

      • Alan Watkins says:

        If you commit crime A and crime B and crime C, and are found guilty of all, the sentences should not run concurrently. Having sentences run concurrently is like getting zero days/years sentence for the tow shorter sentences. It makes no sense


  • Denise Smit says:

    The police colluding with the gangsters is the worst part of the story. What does Cele say about that. His police in the Cape forms part of the gangsters feeding the crime wave

  • Graeme J says:

    I really don’t understand why the judge ruled that the sentences should run concurrently. They should run sequentially. They must never be allowed out.

    • Peter Holmes says:

      In reply to you, and to Agf Agf (below). I’m no expert, but I think concurrent sentences are the result of some quirk in the law which, of course, could be amended. However, fo some or other reason, it is probably not in the interests of the ANC (just another gang) to do so.

    • kevin gill says:

      As far as I know, with the sentences running concurrently, means that 6 of the life sentences are effectully suspended, as well as all the others.
      Also a “Life sentence” here in South Africa is 25 years, and you can get off with parol, or suffer from Hypertension.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    And the accused police, back on the beat ?

  • Johan Buys says:

    Let’s offer putin our prisoners the opportunity to transfer from prison to the ukraine military exercise, like he does to russian prisoners. If they survive two years there, they are free men in russia.

  • Agf Agf says:

    Ah again the headline masks the reality. Near the end of the article the not unexpected, and frequently used addendum “the sentences to run concurrently”. This means that no matter how many people killed, no matter how many additional crimes committed, they will not spend more time in jail than a single life sentence. I have never understood this peculiar South African legal practice. If I kill one person I get a life sentence. If I kill ten people I still get one life sentence. It boggles the mind. In America they would have been sentenced to two hundred and fifty years in jail. In the UK to life with no possibility of parole.

    • Greeff Kotzé says:

      I guess the headline is technically correct in saying that the book was thrown. It’s just that the only available book is pretty thin…

  • Lavinia Schlebusch says:

    All well and fine, and somewhat encouraging to see justice being served, but what about the other more infamous Gupta brothers?
    You know, the scum that Zuma allowed to loot the country, they’re sitting swell in Dubai.
    How much effort is being made to bring them to book?

  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    Is it just me with my 1980’s education or does “Beja and Maseti each received seven life sentences for each of the seven murders. ” mean that they each received 49 life sentences?

    • Agf Agf says:

      It was just bad grammar by the journalist. One life sentence for each murder so each person got seven life sentences. BUT THEY ALL RUN CONCURRENTLY!!!! So this means that each of them only serve one life sentence. Please please please, can some clever reader who is a lawyer or judge explain the logic of this.

  • Les Thorpe says:

    They’ll be out in about fifteen years, having got parole. Such is S.A.’s criminal-friendly “justice system”, specially designed to ensure that murderers, fraudsters, GBV artists, etc., get back on the streets as soon as possible for “repeat business”. They should have been sentenced to a public hanging (but of course they have “rights”, something that the seven murdered victims don’t have).

  • Bonga Siyothula says:

    Fundile “Phiri” Maseti is the one that went back to the crime scene and pretended to be like the rest of the other onlookers. Remember Beja was shot and injured from retaliatory fire during the shooting. So he didn’t have time to go back and be an onlooker with a bleeding leg. He was instead looking for medical help for his gunshot wound on the leg. thanks.

  • Bonga Siyothula says:

    Effectively these guys will only serve a single 25 year sentence before they are eligible for parole. If the legislature is serious about meting out punishment for violent crimes like these, then they must get rid of this foolish clause that allows for sentences to be served concurrently. Jail sentences for violent crimes like these must be served consecutively.

  • Andre Swart says:

    This culture of lawlessness and anarchy is facilitated by the National ANC’s complicity in organised crime.

    That’s why the Western Cape must seperate from the lawless banana republic of SA!

  • Gavin Hillyard says:

    We need a referendum on re-instating the death penalty for proven murder, and rape, especially of minors (and babies can you believe it). Some murderers/rapists serve an inappropriately short sentence, are released, and then commit the same crime again and again. If given the death sentence which is then carried out, has anyone thought that at least the convicted will not be able to murder or rape again?Ask any family member of a person killed or raped if they favour the death penalty. In South Africa today criminals kill and rape more often than not with impunity. If we don’t get back to the basics of discipline and respect for the law, I fear that we will surely end up a gangster state similar to Haiti.

  • Richard Baker says:

    “The City of Cape Town is one of the areas in the Republic which is in the eye of a storm of extortion,” Thulare said.

    “The failed expectations, high rate of unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people resulted in many young people, especially Blacks, getting poorer, in the midst of the cost of living that is rising. The poverty, for the greedy and moral ‘factory faults’ of society, has created a fertile environment for crime. Greed has for them made poverty and crime blood cousins,” he said.”

    Thanks to the ANC who cynically flooded the Western Cape with incomers without any prospect of them being accommodated in that relatively small economy purely to gerrymander the vote and displace the DA.
    Plus marginalise the long-standing coloured community by employment equity laws and competition for resources.
    End result despite efforts by the governing party, the growth of employment achieved can never keep pace with the growing population.
    Lack of law enforcement at national level has created a cauldron of discontent and lawlessness.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Is this the same incident that yesterday was reported that the victims were described as gangsters having put the community under fire and brimstone?

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