A death row inmate condemned to the gallows won a minor but inconsequential battle on Friday in a larger struggle to upstage a sentence of death meted to him by the High Court.
Uyapo Poloko, a Francistowner languishing on death row managed to sway the Court of Appeal (CoA) to shave off one conviction from his array of cumbersome sentences.
Poloko was convicted of the murder of a South Asian woman and sentenced to death. He was also convicted on charges of attempted murder and robbery wherein he received sentences of 12 and 10 years imprisonment respectively.
He was sentenced to death for the murder of Vijeyadevi Kandavanam committed on January 2010 in Francistown.
Poloko had strangled her to death. He had moments earlier strangled her husband Balasingham Kandavanam who quickly lapsed into unconsciousness. After the ghastly acts, he proceeded to ransack their house.
In the trial at a lower court the husband, Balasingham who knew Poloko from the building industry had testified that Poloko had come to his house to negotiate the sale of his second hand car on behalf of one Christopher Mazenyane.
After some negotiations, the price was agreed at P8, 000 which was paid at the Kandavanams residence on Saturday the 22nd January 2010.
Poloko would then rock up unannounced at the Kandavanams the following Monday at 06:00 am.
After exchanging pleasantries over tea, Poloko suggested that he view Kandavanam’s building materials where he allegedly knew were stored in the formers garage.
He also allegedly knew that the family was leaving the country for good.
Evidence led by Kandavanam in court states that after washing his hands and wiping them while still in the process of viewing the building materials, Poloko immediately tied a rope around his neck and also took his cellphone in the process.
Kandavanam is quoted in court papers as stating, “I don’t know what happened next. The incident happened around 08:00 a.m. After hours I heard some noise and the rope was around my neck and blood on my chest. ”
Balasingham’s wife, Vijayedevi had not been so lucky. She had been strangled to death in the passageway, with a rope wrapped fourfold around her neck.
Among other reasons, Poloko’s appeal to the CoA was premised on the reason that he had raised an alibi that the trial court failed to properly consider.
Addressing Poloko’s alibi, Gaongalelwe stated that the issue of an existing alibi was raised belatedly, some four and a half years after the commission of the offence.
This was in spite Poloko having been arrested the very same day the murder took place.
He further argued that the defence missed a point of great importance that an alibi is to be raised at the earliest opportunity that avails itself.
“It must always be borne in mind that such a requirement is not an empty rule of rhetoric but one which serves a purpose,” he noted.
Gaongalelwe further clarified that the purpose and logic behind the rule is to establish the police to investigate its veracity or falsity when events are still in the minds of those concerned.
The CoA upheld the murder and robbery conviction while it determined that Poloko’s conviction for the offence of attempted murder is successful.
Justice Gaongalelwe also found that in a wide search to identify possible extenuating circumstances such as intoxication, provocation or immaturity, there was nothing in the case to suggest any.
He instead argued that the necessary inference was that Poloko had come to rob, knowing that Kanvadam had received the P8, 000 from the car sale.
“He equipped himself with the length of rope…He was prepared to use violence to achieve his purpose. All the evidence suggests that appellant was determined to execute robbery at whatever cost,” Gaongalelwe concluded in the judgement.