Man killed child ‘for ancestors’

2010-11-17 00:00

A SWEETWATERS man on trial in the high court in Pietermaritzburg for stabbing his 17-month-old daughter to death told a friend he had been performing an “offering” to his ancestors known as umhlabelo, when he killed her.

This evidence was led yesterday before Acting Judge Nalini Govender and two assessors at the trial of Smangaliso Ngubane for the murder of his child, Amini Xaba, at Mtutshana, Sweetwaters, on July 30, 2008.

Ngubane’s attorney, Ishi Khan, told the court his client has no memory of what happened that day, although he does not dispute he killed the child.

Ngubane’s defence is one of mental incapacity.

His former friend and neighbour, Samkele Dube, testified that when Ngubane visited him that morning he seemed normal and they had talked about going for a walk. Ngubane went home but said he would return later.

Dube said he was washing when he heard screaming. Outside he saw his father ”chasing” Ngubane who was carrying the child wrapped in a blanket.

Approaching Ngubane he saw blood on his trousers.

“I wanted to open the blanket to see the child but he didn’t want me to and he moved away. He didn’t speak. I forcefully opened the blanket to see the child … She was full of blood over her body. I was very shocked,” he said.

Dube and his father followed Ngubane, still carrying the child, to a homestead. They did not know what he was doing. He went “in and out” and eventually ran away into the bush.

Dube said when Ngubane stopped he approached him and begged him to go back. “I told him he could get help … He did understand … He kept saying I must not arrest him or report him to the police.”

Dube said he sat with Ngubane and asked him what had happened. “He said he was performing umhlabelo,” he said. This is an offering to one’s ancestors.

Dube said he had never before heard of a human being used for such an offering. Usually animals such as goats or cattle are sacrificed, he said.

Ngubane’s cousin, Margaret Mazeka, testified that Ngubane had loved his daughter. She claimed that he had “changed” after the death of the child’s mother, Nondumiso Xaba. He began to hear “voices” though no one was there, would stand in one place and sing and frequently performed the ritual of “burning imphepho [incense]”, a way of talking to one’s ancestors. He also told her he wanted to become a traditional pastor.

After the murder, Mazeka said she had asked Ngubane about it in prison. “He said he did not know why he killed the child. He then cried and I also cried,” she said.

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