Ex-soldier found guilty of girlfriend's murder

Johannesburg - A Soweto man and former soldier who reported his girlfriend missing after killing her and setting her body alight was found guilty of murder by the High Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Judge Leicester Adams found Zwelebantu Themba Ngubeni guilty of murder, defeating or obstructing the course of justice, violation of a corpse, and unlawful possession of ammunition.  

"He was a poor witness who tried to correct his evidence when he realised his answers were incriminating. There were contradictions and inconsistencies in his version," Adams said. 

"He poured petrol over her and set it alight. He left the scene with the body still ablaze."

Ngubeni killed Zestah September in Soweto in December 2015, after she apparently confessed to cheating on him. 

During his bail application, Ngubeni told the court that on the night of the murder, the two of them wrestled. During his trial, he said they pushed each other and he stretched his hands towards her and then blacked out. When he woke up his hands were around her neck and she was motionless.

The two were living together at the time. Ngubeni is a former SA National Defence Force (SANDF) employee. 


The court gallery was packed with members of the public on Thursday, some wearing T-shirts with the words "Justice4Zestah". 

Adams said the death of women at the hands of their partners was one of the evils of South African society.

He said Ngubeni lied and deceived members of September's family and the police. One witness described the couple’s relationship as toxic and said there was constant tension between them. 

Other witnesses had testified that September would have bruises on the neck after Ngubeni had assaulted her. 

Some members of the public shook their heads as Adams described the killing. He said September had been cut severely with a sharp object. This wound, together with other injuries, probably caused her death. 

He said the couple had a tumultuous relationship. 

According to the indictment, on December 29, 2015, Ngubeni saw September flirting with another man. 

This unsettled him. That evening, Ngubeni assaulted and strangled September. He removed some blood-stained clothes and hid them in a wardrobe and in a washing basket. He remained with her body overnight.

On December 30, Ngubeni bought petrol at a filling station. He put her body into a car. The next day he drove it to a secluded area where he set it alight. He reported September missing at the Protea Glen, Soweto, police station on January 1, 2016. 

The case is expected back in court on September 18 for sentencing proceedings.   

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