A RUB on the leg and a kiss on the cheek.
The amorous advance from the older man was enough to send Mbulelo Ntlauzana into a rage — and what followed was a bloodbath.
With knife in hand, Ntlauzana (25) plunged the blade 12 times into well-known businessman Nhlanhla Gasa.
Crime scene photographs depict the carnage in the upmarket Umhlanga house where Gasa (62) — who enjoyed elite status in local business circles — was killed on March 26.
Blood was smeared on the floor and a coffee table with a glass top lay shattered from a brief scuffle that preceded Gasa’s murder.
Yesterday, Ntlauzana was convicted of murder, theft and malicious injury to property. He was sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail by magistrate Anand Maharaj in the Durban Regional Court.
Quoting the King James Bible, poet William Yeats and former Sunday Times columnist David Bullard, Maharaj spoke of the scourge of murder in South Africa and rejected Ntlauzana’s plea for mercy.
“In my view … murder has reached endemic proportions,” said Maharaj, setting an uncompromising tone for his sentencing.
Judging by the cases in his court, Maharaj added, “it’s no longer a question of if you’ll be a victim of crime, but when”.
Sitting immediately behind Ntlauzana, who pleaded guilty to all three charges, was Gasa’s ex-wife Sne, his celebrity daughters Noni and Mbali, and two sons Andile and Mphumelelo.
A few rows back Ntlauzana’s mother stifled her sobs. The court heard how she, with Ntlauzana’s girlfriend, had implored her son to hand himself over to police after a confession he made to them after the crime.
Instead, Ntlauzana went on a “sojourn”, as the magistrate described it, to the Eastern Cape where he consulted a sangoma for burn injuries he received on the night of the crime.
Ntlauzana said in his plea that after killing Gasa, he placed the body in the boot of the older man’s Jaguar and drove to the Tugela River, where he disposed of the corpse.
Then he went home to Groutville on the North Coast where he doused the car “inside and outside” with petrol and set it alight.
The car exploded and Ntlauzana was burned on his upper right arm and face, injuries he decided to have treated in Lusikisiki.
He was arrested on April 13 when police heard he had returned from the Eastern Cape, his birthplace.
There were two tense moments in court, the first when Ntlauzana, a matric dropout, took the stand to testify for a lenient sentence.
His legal aid attorney, Hycenth Mlotshwa, asked him if he had a message for Gasa’s family.
“To the friends and family of the late Mr Gasa, I’d like to apologise. I know what I did was wrong, and I pray and hope you will find it in your hearts to forgive me,” said Ntlauzana, who has three children.
“He was a very gentle and loving guy, always smiling. Every day I always see his smile. Not a day goes by without me seeing his face. Thing is, I can’t sleep right at night thinking about what I’ve done.”
The second moment of drama occurred when prosecutor Kuveshni Pillay called Gasa’s oldest son Andile (25) to testify against Ntlauzana.
He began by reading from a prepared statement, thanking the public for support and praising the investigating team. Putting the statement to one side, Andile then turned his attention to the media, taking exception to weekend reports claiming Ntlauzana and his father were lovers.
“We didn’t deserve this. I’m disappointed the way the media has handled and potentially compromised the case. Honestly, it’s unacceptable.”
Andile said they couldn’t accept Ntlauzana’s apology and called for a maximum sentence.
He said his father was born poor and worked hard from an early age to provide for his family.
Earlier, the court heard in Ntlauzana’s plea how he met Gasa in 2010 while working at Steers in Umvoti. Gasa tipped him R200 and left his phone number.
They kept in contact, with Gasa offering to help Ntlauzana as a business mentor. He once gave Ntlauzana R2 000 to register for a cash-in-transit course.
On the night of the murder, Gasa had fetched his protégé from Groutville and took him home to Umhlanga, where they watched TV and chatted.
Gasa brought out a bottle of Jack Daniels and the pair shared shots.
“He then put his left hand on my right lap. He was brushing me and looking at me in a sexual manner … he leaned towards me and kissed me on my right cheek.”
The advance incensed Ntlauzana and his reaction in turn angered Gasa. A fight started in the lounge and ended with Ntlauzana stabbing Gasa.
He grabbed a duvet and dragged the body to the garage, loaded Gasa into the boot of his car and drove to the Tugela River, where he dumped the body.
Neither Gasa’s nor Ntlauzana’s families were prepared to comment after court.