Fortuin said Thomas planned crimes carefully while in custody and, even with the limitations imposed on him in jail, he was still able to carry out his plans. Thomas was on Wednesday sentenced to seven life terms, which would run concurrently, after he had earlier been convicted on seven counts of murder. Fortuin thanked all the witnesses for having the courage to testify against Thomas and his 16 co-accused.
She said, “regarding 204 witnesses, they were called criminals and smugglers, but that is irrelevant as long as they spoke the truth”. The judge said that while the 17 accused all came from areas with socio-economic challenges, the awful conditions in which they lived could never be an excuse for murder.
Thomas was convicted earlier this month of 52 charges, including murder, conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and extortion. Eight of his co-accused were also sentenced to life behind bars on Wednesday.
The Western Cape’s deputy police commissioner for crime detection, Jeremy Veary, said the sentences should serve as a lesson to children. “You walk around [areas plagued by gang activity] Manenberg and Atlantis and find kids aspiring to be 28s generals.” Members of all three Numbers gangs – the 26s, the 27s and the 28s – were represented among those convicted on Wednesday, which Veary described as an “historic moment”.
The correctional services department is planning to do an internal security assessment of each of the 17 accused. The men will serve their sentences under heightened security and officials at prisons are on high alert so that they can’t commit crimes in prison. Officials would also not disclose where they served their sentences for security reasons.
Provincial head of the Justice Department, Hishaam Mohamed, said the sentences were a “victory for people and the justice system as a whole”.
During the marathon five-year trial, 13 State witnesses were murdered. Mohamed said they had all voluntarily left the witness protection programme. But, he said, convictions were secured for those murders, sending the message that “no murder will go unpunished”.
In total, Thomas received 163 years plus seven life sentences – a total of 338 years. His sentences will run concurrently.