Tearful widow relives grief of Desai murder

Emotional day as court told of effect killing had on businessman’s family, community

Eston Afrikaner, left, speaks to Advocate Jodine Coertzen while Deswin Kleinbooi faces the gallery after the presentencing hearing in the high court
Eston Afrikaner, left, speaks to Advocate Jodine Coertzen while Deswin Kleinbooi faces the gallery after the presentencing hearing in the high court
Image: Devon Koen

The wife of slain businessman and northern areas crime-fighter Na’eem Desai broke down in tears yesterday as she described how his murder had affected not only her life, but those of her daughter and their community.

Nearly two years ago, the lives of Armina Desai and her daughter Azraa, 17, were shattered when two men shot dead the family’s breadwinner.

“For nothing more than a cellphone and an undisclosed amount of money,” Armina said in the Port Elizabeth High Court.

She took to the stand during argument for aggravation of sentencing and described how the death of her husband of 20 years had taken its toll on her family – emotionally, psychologically and physically.

“My daughter’s life is so dark and unhappy. Everything we do, we have a void of not having him with us. I can’t even explain to you,” she said, breaking down in tears.

Na’eem was shot and killed in the early hours of May 12 2016, while delivering bread to a spaza shop in Helenvale.

“On Saturday it will be two years, but for us it feels like yesterday,” she said.

“I have to be strong for my daughter … she has been diagnosed with deep depression.

“Her father was more than a father to her. They were best friends – they did everything together.

“I never imagined myself being alone. [Na’eem] was the strongest man I ever knew.
“Life is very, very difficult without him. I can deal with anything, but without him around it is so difficult.

“Na’eem’s life meant nothing to them. They have no remorse for taking his life.

“It wasn’t only his life but mine and my daughter’s too,” she said, fighting back the tears.

In March, Eston “Gans” Afrikaner, 19, and Deswin “Boetie Baas” Kleinbooi, 22, were found guilty of Na’eem’s murder as well as robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Afrikaner was also convicted of the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition as he pulled the trigger.

A pre-sentencing report detailed the poor and deprived upbringing Afrikaner had endured.

This included that his father had died when he was young and his mother was an alcoholic.

Afrikaner was 18 at the time of the murder.

Kleinbooi was found guilty last year of attempted murder, the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition and malicious damage to property.

He is serving 16 years for that conviction.

Na’eem’s close friend and fellow crime fighter, Anita Goss, told the court the death of her friend of 10 years had had a major effect on her and the community he served.

“Three years ago I lost my son and Na’eem was the one who was there for me,” Goss said.

She and Na’eem worked together at the Gelvandale Community Police Forum.

“He was always there. Whenever there was a social problem in the community he would go out and assist,” she said.

In mitigation, Kleinbooi’s advocate, Jodine Coertzen, said she felt immense sympathy for the Desai family, but asked the court to be lenient in sentencing her client.

“The role [Kleinbooi] played [in the crime] should be in his favour. He was not the one with the gun,” she said.

Afrikaner’s advocate, Peet Schoonraad, said the fact that his client had no previous convictions and that he had been in custody for two years should be taken into account by the court when handing down sentence.

Prosecutor Garth Baartman said it was clear that the pair showed no remorse, nor had they accepted responsibility.

Sentencing will be on May 17.