Boy in box: teen shows remorse

2011-07-13 00:00

NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD Simphiwe Zondi was given a wholly suspended sentence of five years’ imprisonment yesterday for causing the death of his three-year-old nephew, Mcebisi Zondi, whose badly decomposed body was found in a cardboard box at the weekend.

The discovery of the child’s remains on Saturday ended an extensive search launched for the toddler since the day of his disappearance on May 26.

Zondi pleaded guilty before regional magistrate Paul Ableman to a charge of culpable homicide and admitted that he unlawfully and negligently killed the toddler while “swinging him” by his arms.

“I never intended to cause him any harm and I am totally remorseful for my actions,” he said in a statement.

Zondi said the child’s mother, his sister, left him in charge of her three-year-old son.

He said, “I started playing with [Mcebisi] by swinging him around with both his hands. It was not the first time I played with him in this manner and I knew that he liked it.

“While playing with him I lost my grip and the deceased hit the wall with his head and fell down.”

Zondi said he realised that the child was no longer moving and panicked.

“I was so much in shock about what I had done that I ended up placing his body into a box.

“The body was discovered a few days later and I confessed to what I did. The body of the deceased was discovered in the same box which I had placed him in,” he added.

Zondi’s legal aid attorney, S. Ngobeni, urged the court to show Zondi mercy and pass a sentence that will “allow him to mend his ways and remember what happened that particular day”.

He said Zondi showed remorse by pleading guilty and took responsibility for what he did.

“He placed the body into a box out of fear and not knowing what he would tell his sister. I ask the court not to punish him solely because he concealed the body,” said Ngobeni.

State prosecutor Pranisha Kasool submitted that the court should consider imposing a sentence of imprisonment.

She said the child’s mother entrusted her son to Zondi and when she later asked him where the child was he lied to her.

“He told her he had seen the deceased earlier on, but that he didn’t know where he was or what had happened to him,” she said.

The child’s disappearance was reported to the police and published in the media.

His body was only found one-and-a-half months later in a cardboard box belonging to the neighbours who stored some clothes in it.

The box was in a room where the child’s mother also stayed. It was only when the neighbour reclaimed the box that the body was found.

Passing sentence, Ableman described the circumstances of the toddler’s death as a tragic and “unfortunate accident” and said he believed imprisonment was not a suitable sentence.

He said the only evidence about the way in which the child died was the information supplied to the court by Zondi.

He said people often play with children by throwing them in the air and on most occasions this does not cause any injury.

He said the fact that Zondi was described as a “slow learner” who left school in grade two and was never employed should perhaps have raised a suspicion whether he was a person who was adequately able to care for the child.

Speaking to The Witness after sentencing yesterday, Mcebisi’s mother, Thoko Zondi, said she was relieved when she heard the sentence because she realises that what happened to her son was an accident.

“It was painful to watch them arrest my brother. We are so close because we have no one else but each other,” said Zondi.


Toddlers mom: My house was never searched

QUESTIONS have been raised as to why the police did not find the body of little Mcebisi’s Zondi, which had been concealed in the very house he went missing from, despite extensive searches.

Approached yesterday for comment about the course that the search took and why police failed to discover the child’s body, provincial police spokesperson Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said he was unable to provide details of the police work involved in the search.

The matter involved a child and was thus “sensitive”, despite the fact that the case had been wrapped up in court.

The Witness was previously told that police had conducted a search that covered neighbouring homes and yards. All the while, it has now emerged, the child’s body lay concealed in a box in his home.

Mcebisi’s mother, Thoko Zondi, said that during the search of the houses in the area the police never once searched her home.

Zondi said, “The only time the police came into our home was when they came to fetch me. They never searched the house.

“The police heard rumours and then blamed me. I didn’t understand because I loved my child.”

In 2006 the body of Gauteng Judge President Bernard Ngoepe’s missing granddaughter was found lying half-naked under a bed in her parents’ home after a 24-hour manhunt, launched following a robbery at her parent’s home.

It was initially thought that Makgabo, the daughter of Ngoepe’s son-in-law, Springs magistrate Stephen Matlala, had been kidnapped.

Police launched a massive search for the kidnappers and the child, combing the area of Lenasia South and surrounds. — Witness Reporter.

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