Man killed ‘witch’ for reward

2008-09-03 00:00

The Pietermaritzburg High Court was told yesterday that a 24-year-old man had participated in the murder of a woman labelled a “witch” for a reward because he had lost his job as a gardener and was tempted by the money.

Sipho Mthembu of Mpophomeni, Howick, pleaded guilty before Judge Thumba Pillay yesterday to the murder of Melinyana Mina Mlotshwa (57) and the attempted murder of her husband, Amon Mlotshwa, who was wounded in the incident on July 7, 2006. He will be sentenced tomorrow.

Police asked the media not to publish the name of the man who allegedly hired him or that of an accomplice, as they are currently being sought.

Mthembu said in a written statement to the court that he and a friend were approached a few days before the killing by a man who asked if they would kill a “witch” he claimed was responsible for the death of his wife. They agreed to do so for a sum of R3 000.

The day before the murder, the man drove them to Mlotshwa’s home and instructed them to kill the “old lady” of the house, whom he pointed out. He gave them R200 for anticipated “expenses” and a 38-calibre revolver loaded with six rounds of ammunition.

Mthembu said on the night in question, he and his accomplice proceeded to the house. His companion was armed with a 9 mm pistol and he carried the revolver.

A young woman answered the door and they asked for the “old lady”, who turned out to be Mlotshwa.

Mthembu said his friend spoke to Mlotshwa and as she turned to go back into the house, he instructed Mthembu to shoot her. “I used the 38 revolver to shoot at the deceased until I ran out of ammunition,” he said.

He said the woman’s husband also sustained gunshot wounds as a result of being shot by him.

“I am truly remorseful for my actions and I am prepared to take responsibility for the same. I asked this honourable court to show whatever mercy may be proper in determining an appropriate sentence,” said Mthembu.

He offered to give evidence for the state in any subsequent trial.

Mthembu’s legal representative, Ishi Khan, said if it were not for Mthembu’s guilty conscience, the case would have gone unsolved by police. He said Mthembu was arrested on August 24 on an unrelated matter and at that stage voluntarily disclosed to police his involvement in Mlotshwa’s murder.

Khan said the fact that Mthembu lost his job as a gardener (because his employer relocated) and found himself without work had “tipped the scales” that led to him committing the crimes.

State advocate Sandra Senekal argued that are a number of aggravating features including the prevalence of murder in South Africa, the fact that the killing was pre-planned and involved the use of a firearm and the fact that the victims had no means of defending themselves and were attacked in their home.

Mthembu’s remorse only came to the fore at a “late stage” following his arrest, she said.

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