The two men convicted of murder in the Coligny sunflower case, Pieter Doorewaard and Phillip Schutte, have been granted special leave to appeal directly to the Court of Appeals in Bloemfontein.
The father of one of the men broke the news to friends and family on Wednesday, saying (in Afrikaans): “At this moment I have a big lump in my throat to bring you WONDERFUL news!!! Leave to appeal is allowed on ALL five charges!!”
The family hopes that by having the appeal case heard directly in Bloemfontein there is more chance of it being heard “fairly”.
The pair were convicted in the High Court in Mmabatho of the murder of teenager Matlhomola Moshoeu in April 2017 (who was thrown from a moving vehicle after being accused of stealing about R80 worth of sunflowers), but it later came to light that the only eyewitness to the tragedy, allegedly admitted afterwards that he had lied about what he saw.
In May this year the same court refused the men leave to appeal. But yesterday, the duo’s legal team – led by well known Advocate Barry Roux – successfully petitioned the Court of Appeals to appeal their conviction.
AfriForum said in a press statement that it had decided to fund the two men’s appeal application after the eyewitness, Bonakele Pakisi, confessed to four different people that he had lied to the court when he testified that he saw Doorewaard and Schutte murdering the teenager.
According to Kallie Kriel, CEO of AfriForum, his organisation is grateful that the two men will now have the opportunity to prove that the “High Court in Mmabatho erred by ignoring key evidence of their innocence and relying on the story of a liar as only eyewitness”.
Kriel said that AfriForum will fund the rest of the two men’s appeal process to “ensure that justice prevails and to prevent innocent people from ending up in jail wrongfully”.
Kriel says that it is important to hold people accountable who spread lies to create racial tension and a false cloud of “racism” around innocent people.
Doorewaard was sentenced to 18 years in prison and Schutte to serve 23 years in prison. At the time – in March 2019 – Sakkie Dingane, the father of 15-year-old Moshoeu, said he was unsatisfied with the sentence.
A relative of the two convicted men thanked God for pulling them through, and thanked all friends and family for their “support and love”.
A different family member told SAPeople that the family has tried to stay positive throughout, but that it has been very tough, especially on days when, for instance, one of the men’s youngest children turned four. “We all suffer, but especially his mother,” said the relative.
He said the family would most like for the truth to come out. “I was not there when it happened, but me and the workers who worked with him for a very long time know him… and we believe he is innocent. We just pray for the truth.”
The legal team now has two weeks to file the notice and grounds for appeal to the court, before the court will give them a date and they can apply for bail.