Nun's killers handed two life sentences each

2015-05-15 12:57
Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula crouch down to avoid being photographed.

Mondli Shozi and Sibongiseni Phungula crouch down to avoid being photographed. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Pietermaritzburg - Two men convicted of the robbery, rape and murder of an elderly nun at an Ixopo convent were sentenced to two life terms and 18 years imprisonment each in the High Court in Pietermaritzburg on Friday.

Sbongiseni Phungula, 25, and Mondli Michael Shozi, 26, had entered a guilty plea for the slaying of Roman Catholic missionary sister Gertrud Tiefenbacher at the Sacred Heart Convent in April.

Cries of "Thank you Jesus” erupted from the public gallery as the sentence was passed.

The life sentences were for the rape and murder, and the 18 years for robbery.

Judge Nompumelelo Radebe had scathing remarks for the two, whom she described as more embarrassed than contrite.

"Judging from the demeanour of the accused, this court finds that they have not displayed any remorse. They kept on hiding beneath the dock and the court has had to make them rise and sit up. They are simply embarrassed and I am sure they hate their deeds,” she said. 

“In their plea explanation each said that they were deeply remorseful for their actions, and besides that sentence that they have not done anything to show this. They have never taken the opportunity to face the nuns seated in the gallery and ask for forgiveness. They never once turned around and took the opportunity to apologise,” she said.


Tiefenbacher was strangled to death in her room, after Shozi and Phungula had raped her.

The two, who both had previous convictions, maintained that they had been drunk and had broken into the convent to steal food when they were disturbed by Tiefenbacher.

Radebe dismissed the assertion that fact that the two were orphans as a mitigating factor in determining what term they should serve.

“Both of them were assisted by their grandmothers when they were growing up and showed ingratitude to them by raping a grandmother. There are a lot of orphans in our society, but these orphans do not go around committing crimes.”

“I wonder what is going through the minds of accused one’s [Shozi] grandparents as he sits here in the dock today,” Radebe added.


She said the long term of imprisonment for the two would give them ample opportunity to rehabilitate themselves.

“The accused will be removed from society for a long period of time, deterring them from killing, raping or robbing anyone else.

“If would-be offenders have ears, use them and be deterred from committing such heinous crimes,” she added.

Sister Gerald Frye, speaking on behalf the nuns that packed the public gallery, welcomed the judgment, saying that she and others would continue to pray for the two men.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.