Justice is cold comfort

2014-03-09 14:00

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Justice is in sight for his daughter’s murder, but it’s cold comfort for Themba Khumalo.

In the past week, South Africans watched on TV with awe as June Steenkamp tried to fight back tears as witnesses testified how her daughter Reeva screamed in the early hours of the morning as her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius pumped bullets into her fragile body.

The shocking events that unfolded at Silver Woods Country Estate in Pretoria East on Valentine’s Day last year were reminiscent of the equally harrowing events that took place in our house at Villa Dine complex, a stone’s throw from Silver Woods.

On the morning of April 21 2011, we left our daughter Zanele alone. She had not slept properly the previous night thanks to her boyfriend who had called her no fewer than 20 times, threatening to “deal” with her for daring to cut ties with him.

Although she was five months pregnant with his child, Zanele had enough of the man’s relentless physical and emotional abuse.

On that fateful day, her mum and I left for work as usual. As a precaution, her mum woke her up and asked her to come and lock the gate. Zanele hugged her goodbye and gave her typical smile before locking the gate.

What followed was a sequence of events that were relived in court by witnesses. They knew her boyfriend from when he and Zanele had walked hand in hand in happier times.

But his behaviour on that fateful day was strange. Instead of pressing the buzzer as usual, when he arrived at the main entrance of Villa Dine that morning, he waited for any resident with a remote to open the gate to enter or leave the complex.

Disguised in blue overalls, Thato Kutumela sneaked into the complex and scaled the 2m wall of our house. It’s still unclear how he got into the house because there was no sign of a forced entry.

Unfortunately for him, some neighbours later saw him standing with our daughter outside the house shortly before her death.

One of the women neighbours sensed something was amiss and asked Zanele if everything was fine. Even though she was crying, Zanele assured the neighbour all was well. The woman left reluctantly. That was the last time Zanele was seen alive.

We discovered her lifeless body in her bedroom later that evening when my wife and I returned from work. Shocked and in denial, we rushed her to hospital, where doctors confirmed our worst fears.

Kutumela was the immediate suspect based on the evidence of the eye witnesses who saw him enter our complex and leave two hours later.

Questioned by the police later, Kutumela denied having been to our house on that fateful day. When he was subsequently confronted with evidence of his DNA found in Zanele’s body, he changed his story completely. His cellphone movements that day also placed him in the vicinity of our house.

He told police he had been to our house that morning. This was after he got into a wrong taxi from Mamelodi to go to work.

When it passed near Villa Dine, he decided he might as well visit his girlfriend. Zanele opened the gate for him and after some cosy moments with her he left for work.

During his marathon trial, which lasted nearly two years, Kutumela, through his lawyer, refused to defend himself under oath in the witness box where his alibi would have been put through the litmus test through an intense cross-examination.

He must have taken good legal advice from his lawyer that if he did, the prosecutor, George Baloyi, would shred his alibi.

He behaved boisterously and misconstrued the media coverage of his trial as an honour. The appearance of his face in newspapers went to his head.

Not once did he display any sign of remorse. His gait resembled that of a “hero” who was on trial for a noble cause. In township lingo, he was “bumping”.

But the law had other ideas.

On November 13 2013, acting Judge Johan Kruger found him guilty on all three counts – murder, rape and theft.

The upcoming sentencing will wipe away the terrible grief that has gripped us since April 2011. It will lift the proverbial dark cloud that has hung over our family for three solid years.

Although Kutumela’s likely imprisonment will not bring back our beloved child, it will go a long way towards soothing our never-ending pain.

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