Mr Hlabanyane made the remarks while slapping Samuel Masiu (57) from Mafeteng, with a one-year jail term or a fine of M1000 for illegally possessing a 9mm pistol with five rounds of ammunition.
Masiu, who had pleaded guilty as charged, was supposed to serve six months in prison had he failed to pay a M500 fine after the magistrate had suspended half of the sentence.
However, after paying the fine, Masiu walked out of court a free man, but not before Prosecutor Mohau Mahanyele, told the Maseru Magistrate’s Court how Masiu was arrested on Thursday last week at a police checkpoint in Mazenod.
“As the police were conducting a stop-and-search of vehicles along Main South One Road in Mazenod, a 4×4 vehicle bearing South African registration numbers arrived. The accused was among the occupants of that vehicle,” said Mr Mahanyele.
“The police stopped and searched the vehicle, and found a 9mm pistol loaded with five rounds of ammunition. The weapon was under the driver’s seat.
“The car was being driven by another man, but the accused told the police that the gun belonged to him.
“He was immediately arrested after failing to produce a license when the police asked him for the document.”
In mitigation, Masiu pleaded with the court to impose a lenient sentence on him, saying he was employed in the South African mines and was the sole breadwinner for his family.
“I am a married man with five children. The first one is 27 years old and the last one is 17 years of age.
“I used to have a licensed gun but it was stolen in my house in 2007.
“I have since applied for another license but there has never been any response from the police until now,” he said.
However, Prosecutor Mahanyele urged the court to impose a heavy sentence which would serve as a deterrent to those who might want to commit a similar crime.
“When imposing sentence, the court should also look into the calibre of the gun in question.
“It’s a new gun and we all know the situation in Mafeteng where the accused was taking the gun to.
“Mafeteng is notorious for people killing one another using illegal firearms. The police might have unwittingly saved five people’s lives by arresting the accused before he could get to Mafeteng with this gun.
“I humbly request this honourable court to impose a heavy sentence on the accused,” he said.
However, Mr Hlabanyane said he imposed the sentence after considering all circumstances pertaining to the case and the evidence tendered in court.
“It is on rare occasions that firearms with proper licenses are used to commit crime.
“The court is also aware of the high rate at which people are being killed in Mafeteng using illegally acquired weapons.
“However, after considering the age of the accused and that he did not waste the court’s time by denying the obvious, as well as the fact that he has been waiting for approval of the replacement license for a long time, he will only serve five years in prison or pay a fine of M500.
“The firearm will be forfeited to the state,” he ordered.