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Western Cape High Court Overturns Magistrate's Decision to Fine Cannabis Dealers and Imposes Prison Sentences Instead

Western Cape High Court Overturns Magistrate's Decision to Fine Cannabis Dealers and Imposes Prison Sentences Instead

The ‘War Against Drugs’ continues with the Western Cape High Court imposing prison sentences on two self-confessed cannabis dealers saying that the fines they paid in terms of a magisterial ruling were “not in accordance with justice”.

IOL News

23 February 2023 at 10:00:00

IOL reports that the Western Cape High Court took two seperate matters on review of two foreign men convicted under the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act and found that the Laingsburg Magistrates Court, which sentenced them, let them off too lightly.


According to the judgment, the senior magistrate found that the trial magistrate committed an error during the sentencing proceedings of both accused, found guilty and in contravention of the Drug Trafficking Act.


Lesotho national Trymore Muridzo was arrested on September 14, 2020, on the N1 near Laingsburg after he was stopped by the police, who searched the truck and found 14.2kg of cannabis valued at R28 400 that he was transporting.


Muridzo admitted he transported the dagga. He also stated that he was going to use some of it and to sell it. He was sentenced to a fine of R3 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment and paid the fine immediately on the same day.


Zimbabwean national Mahlomola Ramafikeng was arrested and after pleading guilty to drug dealing he was sentenced to a fine of R10 000 or three years’ imprisonment. He also immediately, on the same day after having been sentenced, paid the fine.


The judgment, by High Court Judges Robert Henney and Andre le Grange read: “In both cases, the senior magistrate submits that a person who has been convicted for dealing drugs must be sentenced to a term of direct imprisonment, or at least direct imprisonment which may be suspended on certain conditions.


He further submits that in this matter, a fine was imposed with an alternative period of imprisonment, and is an incompetent sentence and not in accordance with section 17(e) of the Drugs and Drug Trafficking Act (DDTA).”


Citing previous judgments, Judges Henney and Le Grange noted a precedent case under current provisions which states that a court is obliged to impose a term of imprisonment not exceeding 25 years, and furthermore, has the option to impose an additional fine with an alternative term of imprisonment enforcing such payment in terms of the Criminal Procedures Act.


“The change in wording was clearly not accidental, but the change appears to have eluded numerous courts, including those hearing the matters of Mahlangu (and various cases there cited) and Sokweliti. What is apparent from the change in wording is that the Legislature intended that dealing in dagga should be dealt with much more severely than lesser offences such as possession thereof,” the citing read.


Muridzo was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment which is suspended for five years and further sentenced to a fine of R10 000 or three years’ imprisonment.


Ramafikeng was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment which is suspended for five years and further sentenced to a fine of R3 000 or 12 months’ imprisonment.


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