Jubilation, excitement, shock and expected sounds of wailing filled courtroom four of the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court on Friday.
This after acting Judge Stuart Wilson handed down a life sentence to 33-year-old Ntuthuko Shoba, who was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Tshegofatso Pule.
Speaking to journalists outside the court, Pule’s uncle Tumisang Katake said the two-year-long journey since his family’s devastating loss had been an emotional roller-coaster.
He said as tears welled in his eyes:
Handing down his judgment, Wilson described Pule as a vivacious woman who was also vulnerable at the time of her death due to her pregnancy.
The judge said Shoba exploited this and that “it formed a critical part of his plan to kill her”.
“She was a vulnerable woman looking for care and as her pregnancy progressed, she relied more and more on Mr Shoba, which led to him to seeing both Pule and the child as an inconvenience as she needed money for baby clothes, as well as assistance with travel arrangements, which made it easy for him to arrange for her kidnapping.
“Shoba was the prime mover in bringing about Pule’s death, having planned and commissioned it, subsequently bringing into the picture Muzikayise Malephane, who was sentenced to 20 years for Pule’s murder after entering into a plea deal with the State in exchange for testifying against the father of Pule’s unborn child.
“Miss Pule would not have been killed and Mr Shoba would have probably continued looking for help in killing her if Malaphane had refused,” ruled Wilson, emphatically adding that Shoba was the driving force and had done nothing to plea for leniency from the court.
In March, 33-year-old Shoba was found guilty of masterminding Pule’s killing in June 2020. Pule’s body was found hanging from a tree in Durban Deep, western Johannesburg, on June 5. She was eight months pregnant with his child at the time.
On Thursday, during pre-sentencing proceedings, Shoba’s lawyer, Norman Makhubela, pleaded with the court not to impose a life sentence on his client.
“She was the family centre of gravity and the manner of her death, media attention and her loss have devastated all who loved her,” Wilson told the filled courtroom on Friday afternoon.
“I find that her murder was pre-meditated.”
Clad in a grey suit and his usual nonchalant smile, as described by Pule’s family, Shoba appeared undeterred by what could befall him.
Pule’s cousin Tshepang Pule told City Press before proceedings began that should Shoba not receive a life sentence, the already suffering justice system in the country would once again have disappointed many.
She angrily said: