Khumalo court case: 'Leave, don’t kill abusers’

2009-05-20 00:00

SENTENCING 44-year-old Sibongile Mavis Khumalo to life imprisonment yesterday for the contract killing of her husband, Bheki Prince Khumalo (56), in March this year, acting high court judge Rose Mogwera advised the women seated in the public gallery to walk out of abusive relationships rather than taking the law into their own hands.

Khumalo pleaded guilty last week to the murder of her husband, claiming “abuse and financial neglect” were the motive for the killing.

Yesterday in front of a packed gallery, she gave evidence detailing the “abuse” she suffered at the hands of her husband during their 12-year marriage.

She said the abuse started after the first two years, when he began to have extra-marital affairs and failed to come home at night.

But Acting Judge Mogwera said she found that the claims of abuse as justification of her decision to murder her husband were “unconvincing”. She said in African communities it is usual to consult relatives about problems in a marriage and indunas and others are there to act as mediators.

“You seek help … You do not take the law into your own hands. Ultimately you can walk out,” she said.

“To all you women in the public gallery, remember to walk out and not take the law into your hands. You cannot change a person,” she added.

Khumalo testified that she had not told anyone about the alleged abuse.

Mogwera said many married women in this country experience similar problems to those described by Khumalo. “A husband having extra-marital relationships … and when confronted being intimidating ... these are common things.”

She said that this is not to say that this type of behaviour by men should be tolerated, and said she is sure that the lawmakers were aware of this “plague” when they promulgated the Domestic Violence Act.

The day Bheki Khumalo was murdered, a Witness journalist, Sphumelele Mngoma, interviewed Sibongile Khumalo, who told her she was “frozen in fear” when her husband was shot dead in their home and she was locked into the bathroom, all for two cellphones.

Khumalo described in that interview how she had been working in the kitchen while her husband lay asleep in their bedroom when a man broke into the house and pointed a cocked gun at her. She said she did not scream because the gunman warned her not to and “just went numb”.

She was locked into a bathroom while the man roamed the house. Later she had heard a single gunshot.

Khumalo said she was rescued by a family friend who had decided to drop by after seeing their door ajar.

Pleading guilty in the high court last week, Khumalo admitted that she had hired a man to kill her husband. “As planned, on March 25, 2009 the man came to our home and shot my husband, who died as a result thereof.”

She did not say how much she had paid the killer, but according to the state’s indictment, the agreed amount was R15 000.

The alleged killer, Sibongiseni Gwala (34), is expected to go on trial for the murder later this year.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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