Dr Danie van der Walt
Gynaecologist Dr Danie van der Walt who was found gulity of culpable homicide

Dr Danie van der Walt was found guilty of culpable homicide by the Witbank Magistrate’s Court in September last year. The doctor’s troubles began after his 23-year-old patient Pamela Daweti died while giving birth at the Life Cosmos Hospital in Witbank in 2005. Her baby survived the ordeal and brought mixed emotions to the family. What was supposed to be a day of celebration and jubilation was mixed with the sadness of the loss of Pamela Daweti.

Before passing sentence in a packed courtroom on Thursday, Magistrate Marlene Greyvenstein said Daweti’s death might have been prevented if Van Der Walt had remained at the hospital attending to the patient. She was bleeding after giving birth when he left.

She also lamented the fact that Van Der Walt did not show remorse during the course of the trial, but pointed out that she took into account the fact that Daweti’s bleeding was not necessarily caused by Van Der Walt.

Buyi Daweti with his brother and wife
Buyi Daweti, centre with her brother Lungi Daweti and his wife Agnes Tlaka-Daweti outside the Witbank Magistrate Court

“There is no evidence which suggests that the bleeding, which was the cause of Daweti’s death, was necessarily caused by Dr van der Walt,” said Greyvenstein.

“I’m not ignoring your personal circumstances. I acknowledge that you are a respected specialist in this profession. I consider the fact that you have no previous convictions.

“You are of mature age and a valid member of the community, where you provide a much-needed service. But I hold a view that a community-based sentence will not be correct. I’m of the view that the most balanced sentence will be that of imprisonment.”

Greyvenstein’s judgment also contained her responses to Van Der Walt’s legal representative, Advocate Mike Helens, who asked the court to impose a suspended sentence coupled with a fine on his client during earlier court proceedings.

pamela daweti
Pamela Daweti who lost her life at the hands of her doctor.

Helens had described Van Der Walt as a pillar of society who was always available to the people he served.

“This is the man who has made himself available to the society,” said Helens. “He is an outstanding citizen and a family man.”

Presenting the factors in aggravation of sentence earlier, State prosecutor Francois Brandt said it was evident from the start of the trial that the degree of culpability on the part of Van Der Walt was not of a slight nature. He asked the court to impose a prison sentence.

Van Der Walt did not show any emotions after the sentence was passed.