Jacques Brits

2017 – Justice in Review

2017 was a long and eventful year with a few court cases that made the headlines and encouraged public commentary and engagement. If you were a little too busy to keep track of everything, this article will give you the highlights to help keep the small talk around the Christmas table going.  Let’s take a look at some of the high profile court cases that took place during the course of 2017.

Poppie van der Merwe

We all know about the completely heart-breaking and devastating events that took place in the Koekemoer household on 25 October 2016. After more than a year of awaiting the inevitable justice to be served, and after some controversy regarding the dysfunctionality of our legal system, judgment was handed down on 6 December 2017.

After hearing evidence indicating the severe abuse which Poppie and her five year old brother had to endure from February 2015 to October 2016, the Judge found both Louisa Koekemoer and her husband, Kobus Koekemoer equally guilty for the 3 year old Poppie’s death and the severe abuse on Poppie and her five year old brother.[1]

The trial was postponed to 28 February 2018 for pre-sentencing reports. This process entails an investigation into the history of Louisa and Kobus Koekemoer, in order to ascertain whether there exists aggravating or mitigating circumstances for the sentence to be handed down.

Oscar Pistorius

After a long wait, and even some questions whether this trial had finally reached its conclusion, the Oscar Pistorius saga continued in 2017.

After serving only 10 months of his 5 year culpable homicide sentence, Pistorius was released and put under house arrest in 2015. The state subsequently appealed the conviction, which was later replaced by a 6 year jail term for murder. The state petitioned to the Supreme Court of Appeal once again, arguing that the sentence imposed was far too lenient.

On 24 November 2017, the Supreme Court set aside the high court sentence and substituted it with a sentence of 13 years and 5 months, taking into account the time that Pistorius had already served prior to the substituted sentence.[2]

Christopher Panayiotou

Jayde Panayiotou was kidnapped from her Kabega Park home on 21 April 2015. The deceased’s body was found in Rocklands outside Uitenhage the next day. The prosecution argued that the accused orchestrated his wife’s killing, by making use of the services of Sinethemba Nemembe and Zolani Sibeko.

On 2 November 2017, the Port Elizabeth High Court found the Port Elizabeth businessman guilty on the charges of murder and obstruction of justice, while also finding Nemembe guilty of murder and robbery and Sibeko guilty of conspiracy to commit murder.[3]

On 24 November 2017, Panayiotou was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife. His co-accused Nemembe was also handed a life sentence, while Sibeko was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.[4]

Henri Van Breda

After 63 long days, this pending court case was again postponed to the 12th of February 2018 for final arguments.  Judgment is expected towards the end of March 2018.[5]


The aforementioned court cases places great emphasis on an important principle of law, namely justice. Let’s hope for more of this in the New Year.

Merry Christmas to all of you and a Happy New Year. My wish for the new year – “That justice not only be done, but be seen to be done”[6]

[1] https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/1750908/poppies-parents-found-guilty-of-murder/

[2] https://m.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/sca-increases-oscar-pistoriuss-murder-sentence-to-13-years-20171124

[3] https://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/top-news/2017/11/02/panayiotou-found-guilty/amp/

[4] https://www.google.co.za/amp/amp.ewn.co.za/2017/11/24/breaking-christopher-panayiotou-given-life-sentence-for-killing-wife-jayde

[5] https://m.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/live-day-63-of-henri-vanbreda-murder-trial-20171129

[6] R v Sussex Justices ex parte McCharthy (1924) 1 KB 256 (1923) All ER Rep 233

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice.

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