Woman admits part in wife-murder plot

2013-09-03 12:04
Mumtaz Osman (Shan Pillay, The Witness)

Mumtaz Osman (Shan Pillay, The Witness)

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Pietermaritzburg - Convicted murderer Mumtaz Osman has confessed to The Witness in an exclusive interview that she went along with the plan of her lover, Sunesh Manilall, to murder his wife, Monika Manilall, in 2006.

But she says it wasn’t love that drove her to commit the crime. It was financial necessity, and fear of an abusive relationship and of losing her children.

According to Osman, Manilall masterminded the plan. He made all the arrangements for the “hit”, helped by go-between Viktor Mbatha, and drew money to pay the killers by dipping into his bank overdraft facility. He even organised that the killers be taken to the Spar while he and his family were shopping, so that the assailants could see their intended victim.

According to evidence that emerged in court, Monika’s murder on 3 February 2006 was cold-bloodedly executed by gunmen who had information that she would be alone and that the back door would be unlocked. They also knew the location of the panic buttons in the house.

Monika - who was carrying her 1-year-old daughter at the time - was shot and initially wounded. Evidence was led that she tried to get to an alarm button, but one of the gunmen, Siyabonga Mdlalose, shot her in the head, killing her.

Mdlalose pleaded guilty soon after his arrest and was jailed for life.

Two of the other killers died, and the fourth, Phumlani Madlala, turned State witness against Osman, Mbatha and Sunesh.

Apology

In a candid interview at Westville prison where she too is serving a life sentence, Osman apologised to Monika Manilall’s family for her role in the murder.

“I accept what I did was wrong, but I think Monika is at peace, because Sunesh is not a good man,” Osman said.

Osman said she has decided to come clean and publicly confess her guilt because she is moving on with her life - albeit in prison. She is at peace “away from Sunesh and all the abuse”.

“I am not proud of what I did and I am paying for my crime,” she said.

Until now, she had categorically denied any involvement in, or knowledge of, Monika’s assassination.

She has exhausted all legal remedies to overturn her conviction and sentence.

Osman, Sunesh and Mbatha were each jailed for life by the late KZN judge president Herbert Msimang in September 2010.

While Osman’s petition to appeal her conviction and sentence was turned down, Sunesh’s application succeeded, and he is out on R40 000 bail, pending his appeal in the Kwa­Zulu-Natal High Court.

The appeal is only due to be heard next July.

Osman’s brother, Aziz, said Manilall is involved in a relationship with another woman and has abandoned Osman to her fate in prison.

“What she [Osman] did was wrong and she is paying for it, but he is the one who took away my sister’s life.

“We miss her and we want to see justice for him,” he said.

Forgiveness

Osman insists, however, that her motive for speaking out is not bitterness.

“I forgive Sunesh for what he did, but I know that the day of judgement will come and he will burn in hell… You can’t lie to God,” she said.

She added that she was sorry for his new partner.

Osman said when she met Sunesh, she was a prostitute, driven by desperation to put food on her children’s table, and Sunesh was her client.

Their relationship evolved to the point where, after Monika’s murder, they married in terms of Hindu and Islamic rites, and they are still married.

Osman says for her, the relationship was always one of convenience, though Sunesh claimed at their first encounter it was “love at first sight” for him.

“I wasn’t looking for love or for marriage,” said Osman.

Osman said that having got divorced because she caught her ex-husband with prostitutes, she had no wish to marry a man who did the same thing.

However, as time went on, Sunesh started to give her money for groceries and care for her children, and she’d accepted that as payment for her services.

“He was still my client, though,” she added.

“One day, he told me that he wants to kill his wife and that he wants me to help him… At that time, I was shocked and afraid.”

Threats

Osman said she refused, but Sunesh had threatened to “send guys” to kill her, and threatened her with a firearm.

She said after her arrest (she was arrested first), he never left her alone with their lawyers and warned her repeatedly “not to talk”.

He also wrote her letters in prison warning her not to reveal anything.

He had promised her that they would win the case because he had top lawyers handling the matter.

She described Sunesh as “controlling and possessive”, but said she wasn’t sure what motivated his desire to kill his wife.

“I don’t think it was me … I think maybe he wanted the money and the house and his children,” she said.

Denial

Sunesh’s lawyer, Rajeeth Mewalall, said on Monday: “Sunesh Manilall strongly denies the allegations by Mumtaz Osman with regard to the murder and will not comment any further due to the pending appeal.”

Meanwhile, Monika Manilall’s brother, Suren Ramjas said the family could accept Osman’s apology but would be happy only if Sunesh Manilall also goes to jail. “I can’t understand how a court could allow him bail.He should be serving his sentence but he is out having a good time. We see him all the time,” he said.

He said Manilall has a “new wife and baby”.

“She [Osman] should have spoken the truth in court,” he said.

Ramjas said he believes Osman’s decision to “come clean” is probably motivated by a desire to get revenge on Manilall.

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