Zondi murder: five guilty

2011-11-25 00:00

THE stench of apparent “muthi” in the accused’s dock yesterday moved the judge to give his verdict in a clean courtroom.

Judgment in the 2009 murder case of retired Pietermaritzburg academic Professor Samuel Zondi (71) could not be handed down in the usual courtroom yesterday after a green, foul-smelling substance reportedly spilled out of an eggshell into the dock before the proceedings were due to start.

The Witness was told the egg broke when it was knocked over by a cleaner, releasing a terrible smell. It is not known who put it there or when.

Several hours later the five accused — Gugu Ndlovu, Jabulile Ngcobo, Sakhile Hlongwa, Mzwandile Mncwabe and Mondli Cele and assessors Lindelwa Vakalisa and Mbongeni Nxumalo — were found guilty in a different courtroom by Acting High Court Judge Jerome Ngwenya.

The five were charged with having brutally murdered Professor Zondi while executing a plan masterminded by Ndlovu to rob him and to extract his bank card PIN number from him on February 17, 2009.

The judge said the truth of that fateful day will “remain forever untold” because those responsible for his death chose not to disclose it and the court had to assemble the truth from “scattered information”.

What is known is that Professor Zondi offered no resistance; his hands and legs were tied together, he was gagged and blindfolded so that he could not identify his assailants.

His face was covered with a black plastic refuse bag and a pillow. His bed had been set alight and his body was substantially burned.

A doctor testified that Zondi died of a heart attack and “smothering” caused by a combination of factors linked to the attack.

After the assault on him the accused made trips to the Golden Horse Casino and to Durban where attempts were made to buy shoes worth over R4 000 from Spitz using the victim’s credit card.

Zondi’s wife, Dorothy, and Terence Zondi attended the judgment with other family members. They said they were happy with the outcome and impressed with the detailed manner in which the court delivered its conclusions.

However, they would be in a better position to comment once sentences have been passed today, they said.

Acting Judge Ngwenya found that the evidence of an accomplice who testified for the state, Simphiwe Gwala, was“largely truthful” and granted him indemnity from prosecution.

He rejected as “blatant lies” the evidence of Gugu Ndlovu, who had a two-year love affair with the professor and who claimed Gwala — and not she — was the mastermind behind the robbery and murder .

The judge termed Ndlovu an “overbearing, ruthless, selfish character” who tried to downplay her role in the events and did not mind blaming others.

He accepted evidence that she returned to the professor’s Scottsville flat on her own after the robbery and set fire to it in order to destroy evidence.

This gruesome and callous act indicated what a ruthless and uncaring individual she was and that she would “stop at nothing to feed her selfish appetite”.

ingrido@witness.co.za

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