The three judges set aside the 50-year sentence imposed on 40-year-old serial robber Mzolisi Zolla Mahlatsi and replaced it with an effective sentence of 37 years.
Mahlatsi’s sentence was backdated to September 2004 and the judges ordered that he must be considered for parole after serving 25 years, bringing him in line with some of his co-accused who were sentenced to life imprisonment for murder.
Mahlatisi was part of a gang of armed robbers who used military uniforms, blue lights and firearms to commit a series of armed robberies in Pretoria, Carletonville and Oberholzer in 2000 and 2001.
Two people were killed, one nearly killed and a woman was kidnapped and locked in the boot of her car during the robberies.
Mahlatsi was convicted on three charges of armed robbery and one of kidnapping and effectively sentenced to 50 years imprisonment.
Acting Judge AA Lampbrecht said robberies appeared to have become an industry country-wide, akin to a disease that has spread and gotten out of hand.
Post traumatic stress disorder has become the order of the day and sufferers quite often committed crimes themselves, which goes to show how sick society that we live in has become, the Judge said.
He, however, warned against the practice of imposing so-called Methuselah sentences of up to 1 000 years and said life imprisonment should remain the ultimate sentence a court could impose.
Lamprecht said life imprisonment didn’t mean remaining in prison for the rest of one’s natural life and still held the promise of early release in terms of the parole provisions in the Correctional Services Act.
It was abundently clear that the maximum effective term of imprisonment to be served before a convict must be considered for parole was 25 years, whether they were sentenced to life or 50 years.
Lambrecht stressed that courts should be wary of taking into account the parole legislation because a prisoner might not necessarily qualify for release on parole.
Where life was not imposed, effective sentences shouldn’t exceed 50 years and courts shouldn’t impose sentences that would keep prisoners in jail beyond the age of 80.