Child killer mother sentenced to 10 years

2010-03-09 00:00

SWEETWATERS mother Zanele Mngadi (24), who chopped her two children to death with an axe as they lay sleeping on October 27 last year, was jailed for 10 years yesterday by recently retired KwaZulu- Natal Judge President Vuka Tshabalala.

The court agreed with her attorney, Zina Anastasiou, that Mngadi had diminished responsibility, and found she was driven to commit the murders through feelings of hopelessness, guilt, fear and isolation.

The judge said there was evidence she was a “rather frightened young woman who was unable to cope with the rape of her young daughter and its consequences” and saw no other way out of her predicament.

Responding to submissions by state advocate Elsa Smith, that Mngadi had options other than to kill her daughter, Nontobeko Mngadi (5), and son, Xolani Zuma (3), Tshabalala said that from reading a psychological report by Professor Anthony Pillay of Fort Napier Hospital, it seemed to him that Mngadi had been in a hopeless situation and could not have thought of other measures she might have taken.

She felt the community and her family were against her and she felt all alone.

Before sentencing Mngadi, the judge said photographs of the murder scene showed a “very gruesome and barbaric attack on little children”, which made it difficult for the court to arrive at a proper sentence.

In her statement to the court last December when she pleaded guilty, Mngadi said she saw her boyfriend, Bheko Mthalane whom she knew to be a “dangerous” person, rape her daughter and he threatened to kill her family and cut her throat if she reported him to the police.

When she decided to kill herself and her children she was deeply depressed, felt guilty at being unable to protect her daughter from Mthalane and feared that when he got out of prison he would carry out his threat to kill them. She said she was “pressurised” by her family to report Mthalane to the police and have him arrested.

She picked up an axe and “chopped” the children as they lay sleeping.

Mngadi tried to commit suicide, but did not succeed.

Tshabalala said a sentence of correctional supervision was not recommended by Correctional Services because Mngadi would be in danger from her community, who are still angry about the murders, her parents and grandparents are not yet prepared to accept her back and she could not be monitored adequately.

Judge Tshabalala said there was no evidence that Mngadi was not a good mother to her children before the murders.

He said that from the psychological report by Pillay, it appears she suffered from intense feelings of fear and guilt and felt she had no way out of her predicament.

Her actions had to be viewed in the light of her witnessing the rape of her daughter, the trauma this caused as evidenced by “flashbacks” she suffered of that image, the threat by her boyfriend to kill her and her family.

Her powerful feelings of guilt at not being able to protect her child are not uncommon among parents of sexually abused children.

What was also significant was her admission that her family and community had warned her that her boyfriend had a history of this type of behaviour, but she did not listen, aggravating her feelings of guilt.

The report also revealed that she did not feel she had support from her family or the law after she was shot in the head by her brother who was in grade seven, when she was persuaded not to pursue the matter.

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