Three men guilty of vigilante murder of man who tried to steal a TV set

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The high court in Johannesburg found three men guilty of murder after they participated in the burning alive of a man who tried to steal a TV set from a house in Thembisa in October 2020. 

On October 8 that year at Tswelopele Extension 8, Pitso Rampya was caught trying to steal from the home of the Norman and Tumelo Makgopa.  

Rampya tried to flee but Tumelo ran after him, caught him and brought him back to the house and asked what he was doing there.  Evidence was that “after telling a series of lies”, Rampya was slapped and kicked.

One of the neighbours, Potego Malema, identified Rampya and it was suggested she told the crowd Rampya was a small-time criminal who had recently robbed and killed someone in the area.

Malema denied saying that when she testified.

The crowd took Rampya to a nearby football pitch and forced him on to the ground. A mattress was placed on top of him and set alight. He burnt to death at the scene.

What was in dispute was whether the accused -Norman, Tumelo , Dennis Pasha and Potego Mohlala — had a hand in Rampya’s death.

Norman denied being part of the crowd, but the other accused admitted they were present when Rampya was detained and assaulted outside the Makgopas’ house.

They denied participating in Rampya’s murder and also denied they were present when Rampya burnt to death.

The state’s case on the facts in dispute rested exclusively on the evidence of two people who lived close to the Makgopas’ house.

Acting judge Stuart Wilson on Wednesday found that the evidence of one of the witnesses, Potego Malema, was impressive, while he found that the evidence of the other witness, Shoki Malatji, was not so poor that it could be rejected in its entirety.

“If I  am going to convict any of the accused of the very serious charges they face, I cannot rely solely on Mr Malatji’s evidence,” Wilson said.

The judge said  Malema identified four of the five people around the fire as Norman and Tumelo Makgopa, Pasha and Malatji.

“She did not know the fifth person. Ms Malema stayed at the sports field until the fire became quite big. She said she could not hear any sounds from Mr Rampya because the crowd was noisy,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Malema’s evidence was detailed and careful.

“She had no detectible reason to lie. She was ready to concede where her evidence was not particularly incriminating,” Wilson said. 

At the close of the state’s case, Mohlala’s lawyer brought an application for a discharge. Wilson granted that application and said there was no evidence of any substance against Mohlala.

Wilson rejected the evidence of the three accused as “not reasonably possibly true”. 

“I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Norman Makgopa, Tumelo Makgopa and Dennis Pasha, acting in common purpose with each other and with others in the crowd, detained, assaulted and killed Mr Rampya on 8 October 2020,” Wilson said.

He said  Tumelo Makgopa and Pasha participated from the outset when they detained and assaulted Rampya on the street outside the Makgopas’ house, before dragging him to the sports field to be killed.

“I am satisfied that Norman Makgopa joined them at the sports field, or shortly before the crowd reached the field.

“All three men prevented Mr Rampya’s escape kicked Mr Rampya when he was on the ground, and held him down under the mattress long enough to prevent him from escaping the fire that eventually killed him.”


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