Boer escapes jail over death of baby

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The Independent Online
PROTESTERS CHANTED "Kill the farmer, kill the Boer" after a South African judge gave a suspended sentence to a white farmer's son who fired a shot that ricocheted off a power line and killed a black six-month-old girl, Angelina Zwane.

The ruling African National Congress said it would apply to bring a civil case against Nicholas Steyn, 43, who received a five-year sentence suspended for three years in Delmas, east of Johannesburg. Two weeks ago Judge Tjibbe Spoelstra found Steyn guilty of culpable homicide. "The sentence is nothing," Violet Dlamini, mother of Angelina, said.

The killing, at Easter last year, prompted one of the most powerful outpourings of emotion since apartheid ended. It highlighted the widespread use of arms, disparities between white and black living conditions and the unreconstructed state of the South African Police. Angelina, in a blanket on the back of her 11-year-old cousin, Francina Dlamini, died from a bullet through the head while she was being carried across Steyn's smallholding at Zesfontein, near Benoni.

The bullet lodged in Francina's shoulder. She survived the killing, later shown to have been the result of a bullet from Steyn's gun that ricocheted off a power line. Before firing a total of three shots Steyn had told the children to "stop". The court heard that Steyn, who works for a gas company, had been drinking.

Steyn, whose family for many years had employed Mrs Dlamini's mother and aunt, was arrested four days after the shooting, leading to criticism of the police, including an admonition by President Nelson Mandela, who visited the scene the day after Angelina's death. He asked the police what forensic tests had been done and they conceded that two firearms were in Steyn's house but had not been removed.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, former wife of the President, was one of several prominent personalities among the 10,000 people at Angelina's funeral. A fund was set up in Angelina's name to allow Mrs Dlamini, who lives on Steyn's land, to buy her own plot.

Judge Spoelstra, who is white, ruled that a "freak accident" had resulted in Angelina's death.

Yesterday radical campaigners for black rights called the killing racist and urged the ministry of justice to issue an injunction to take the case to a higher court. Pandelani Nefolovhodwe, deputy leader of the Azanian People's Organisation, said: "The old order is still very powerful in our society, including ... the police and the army. This old order, with its racist state of mind, must be disarmed before the new South Africa can truly come into existence," said Mr Nefolovhodwe, whose party, in the June general election, will say that the ANC is soft on criminals and the former perpetrators of apartheid.