Life term for wife killer

2008-06-16 00:00

A former Plessislaer police inspector, Sipho Dennis Shabalala (40), who murdered his common-law wife, was the second person in a wheelchair to be sentenced to life imprisonment at the Pietermaritzburg High Court in a week.

Shabalala was sentenced to life imprisonment on Friday by Judge Isaac Madondo (with two assessors) for the murder of Sindi Mary Cele (42).

The other person was Linda Dlamini (34), who shot dead a policeman during an escape from Loop Street police cells in February 2000.

Shabalala shot Cele multiple times at the homestead where her family operated a tavern and tuck shop in Imbali on November 29, 2005. He shot himself in the forehead in a bid to commit suicide, but survived. As a result of his injuries he is now confined to a wheelchair and the court was told he requires assistance to perform all basic bodily functions. Until now, he has been cared for by his sister.

He has six children, all of whom are dependent on him. As a result of the crime, he lost his job after being in the SAPS for 15 years.

Judge Madondo said Shabalala is the author of his own fate.

He agreed with state advocate Sandra Senekal that Shabalala is an “embarrassment” to the police force.

Madondo said the fact that Shabalala is in a wheelchair now does not diminish his moral blameworthiness at the time of the crime, and cannot be regarded as mitigating.

The judge said it is clear from the evidence that Shabalala killed Cele simply because of her refusal to return to him and said a message should be sent to everyone that the courts will not tolerate such behaviour, more particularly when committed by police officials who are entrusted with law enforcement.

Judge Madondo said Shabalala’s case is distinguishable from other cases involving broken love relationships, where sentences less than life imprisonment were imposed.

He said Shabalala did not plead guilty or show any remorse for what he did, and there was nothing to show that he was “in a state of anguish” when he killed Cele. “There is nothing to suggest [Cele] was unfaithful to him or that she had left the common residence of her own accord. It was [Shabalala] who chased her out of the residence,” the judge said.

Shabalala was a police officer, and used his service pistol to kill Cele. This was an aggravating factor.

Judge Madondo said there was nothing to suggest the killing was prompted by Cele’s behaviour and it was apparent to the court that she had been in an “abusive” relationship.

Madondo refused Shabalala’s application for leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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