Killer confesses years later

2008-10-06 00:00

A man who shot dead a school teacher with an AK47 rifle in Hlabisa in northern KZN 11 years ago, and whose crime would have gone undetected had he not confessed to police in Gauteng, was yesterday sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment by Judge Piet Koen in the Pietermaritzburg High Court.

The court heard that Bhekinkosi Radio Ndebele (32) was motivated by the promise of financial support to continue his schooling in return for carrying out the murder.

His legal aid attorney, Ishi Khan, told Judge Koen that Ndebele confessed to the murder voluntarily while being questioned by police in connection with an unrelated matter. The docket in the case had already been closed when he came forward.

State advocate Pretty-Girl Ngcobo confirmed that this was the case, but urged the court to consider that the victim was a respected teacher whose services were lost to society.

Judge Koen said the seriousness of the murder was not lessened by the accused’s confession, but added that it showed Ndebele felt remorse for his actions.

In arriving at the 10-year sentence, he said he was swayed by a number of mitigating factors.

Ndebele pleaded guilty to the murder of Maqhawe Dumisani Biyela, a teacher at Nqubeko Primary in the Mpembeni area, Hlabisa, on May 21, 1997.

He left school in 1995 after completing grade 9 because his father had died and he had no money to continue his education.

About three days before the murder, he was approached by a man who promised to support him so he could complete his schooling if he carried out the deed.

The alleged “mastermind” cannot be named as the court was told he has recently been arrested and charged and that Ndebele is likely to testify against him.

Ndebele said the man told him he had problems with a certain Mr Chamane, the principal of a nearby primary school, and Chamane’s friend, Biyela, who was a teacher at the school.

He showed him an AK47 rifle and asked if he could kill Chamane and Biyela for him.

“When I informed him that I did not know anything about firearms, he proceeded to teach me how to use the AK47 rifle,” he said.

Ndebele said the man showed him the house where Biyela lived, then said he was going away to the Nyakatho area so that the community would not suspect him, because it was known that he and the intended targets were not on good terms.

He showed Ndebele where he had concealed the AK47 and gave him money for the taxi fare so that he could return to the Hlabisa area the next day to kill Biyela in his absence.

On the day in question, Ndebele said he retrieved the rifle and went to Biyela’s home.

“I stood outside the window … where I observed the deceased getting ready to go to bed.

“The deceased was armed with a handgun that he placed on top of his bed. I struck something with my foot and it made a noise that startled the deceased … I panicked thinking that he would see me and shoot me. I fired several shots in the direction of the deceased and I fled … without ascertaining whether the deceased had been injured.”

Ndebele said he later discovered that Biyela died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Judge Koen said it seemed clear that Ndebele was “exploited and abused” at a vulnerable time in his life. In arriving at a sentence, he was swayed by Ndebele’s “relatively immature” age of 20 years when he committed the murder; that he was financially vulnerable and was taken advantage of; and the fact that of his own accord he came clean.

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