Tshegofatso Pule's family at ease as judge denies killer's bid to appeal conviction and life sentence

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Tshegofatso Pule's family members, friends and members of the public outside court.
Tshegofatso Pule's family members, friends and members of the public outside court.
PHOTO: Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Image
  • Tshegofatso Pule's family are relieved after the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg refused to grant Ntuthuko Shoba leave to appeal against his conviction and sentence. 
  • Pule was found hanging from a tree with a gunshot wound to her chest.
  • Shoba was sentenced to life in prison in July and the hitman he contracted was jailed for 20 years.

Tshegofatso Pule's convicted murderer Ntuthuko Shoba's bid to overturn his conviction and life sentence was rejected by the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg.

Delivering his judgment on Monday, acting Judge Stuart Wilson found no sufficient compelling reasons to grant Shoba leave to appeal.

"To do so would be no more than an exercise in judicial vanity and one which would only lengthen the dull, dragging agony that these proceedings have no doubt imposed on Ms Pule's family and friends."

Pule's aunt Busi Zuma said the justice system had shown it was not going to fail the family. Pule's uncle Tumisang Katake said the family was pleased by the judgment, adding that "the sooner everybody accepts the situation as it is, the better for us".

Shoba, a former JSE analyst, was sentenced to life in prison in July for Pule's murder. 

Her body was found hanging from a tree in Roodepoort in June 2020. There was a gunshot wound to her chest. She was eight months pregnant. 

READ | SA’s crime stats tell a story of a nation at war with its women, children – Ramaphosa

The hitman Shoba had contracted, Muzikayise Malephane, turned State witness and was sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

Wilson said the primary question before him was whether there was a reasonable prospect that he might have been materially mistaken, either in putting together the evidence that led to the conclusion he reached or in applying the law to that evidence.

"Only the prospects of a mistake of that nature would grant the prospect of success on appeal," he said. 

Last Friday, Shoba's lawyer - advocate Louis Barnard - argued that a different court might come to a different conclusion.

"The matter is open to different interpretations. Another court might view that and come to a different conclusion," he argued. 

He said:

There was insufficient collaboration in Malephane's evidence. I scrutinised, confirmed and found he was a liar and a manipulator.

Bernard also questioned the CCTV footage the defence had submitted.

The footage shows that Shoba was outside with Pule for three minutes when Malephane, who she thought was an Uber driver, collected her.

The lawyer also said the few minutes were not enough for Shoba to have facilitated the murder on that night, arguing that there was a reasonable prospect that another court would approach the evidence differently. 

Barnard said he couldn't find any link that Shoba had set up Pule's murder.

However, Wilson said on Monday, that the "problem" with Barnard's argument was that it misconstrued "what I made of the incident in my judgment" and left out "important aspects" of the evidence. 

He said:

I did not conclude in my trial judgment that Mr Shoba must necessarily have been close enough to the Jeep for a period long enough to see and recognise Mr Malephane.

Wilson said he first noted that Shoba accepted that there had been a conversation between Pule and Malephane.  

The acting judge said he concluded that Shoba must have recognised Malephane's voice. He said in Shoba's version, the two men had met on several occasions and had known each other for 10 years.  

Wilson added that a judge sitting alone in any criminal trial has a "heavy burden", and if a trial resulted in the imposition of a life sentence, that burden was particularly acute.

"Throughout these proceedings, I have been keenly aware [of] the possibility that I might make a mistake, and the consequences of my doing so for all involved will be particularly severe," he said.

"No substantial argument on a prospect of appeal against sentence was directed to me. I put to Mr Barnard that if I was right to convict Mr Shoba then I must have been right to sentence him as I did."

He, therefore, refused leave for Shoba to appeal against both his conviction and sentence.

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