Convicted ritual killers Christinah Mhlongo (56), Solomon Mqengeni Mahumani (67) and Amos Mafemani Chuma (51) were today (12 November 2020) sentenced life imprisonment for the murder of Hlayisani Hlungwani (26) in the Thohoyandou High Court.
The state alleged that the trio unlawfully and intentionally killed Hlungwani of Nsavulani village outside Giyani by decapitating her lips, breasts and cutting off her genitals (private parts).
“The three accused acted in the furtherance of common purpose. The heinous crime was motivated by greed and the love of money. The murder sent shock waves in the Hlomela and Nsavula villages,” argued the state.
The court heard that on 17 April 2017, Daniel Dzambukeri lured the deceased, who is his sister-in-law, to board Chuma’s Honda Ballade in order to fetch her child from her grandmother.
Dzambukeri testified that when the vehicle reached Hlomela village, they drove into the bushes where Hlungwani’s legs were tied to a tree until the evening.
All accused later returned to the scene to perform their rituals which involved removing some body parts of the deceased. Dzambukeri was sentenced to life imprisonment after he pleaded guilty in the beginning of the trial. He told the court that he had committed the crime with the other three co-accused.
Dzambukeri told the court that he was holding the deceased with Mahumani while Chuma cut the deceased body parts with a knife and handing the parts to Mhlongo who was wrapping them with a red cloth.
In mitigation of sentence, Christinah Mhlongo continued to profess her innocence and asked the court not to sentence her for the murder she didn’t commit. “There was no way I could have joined the men to commit such crime,” pleaded Mhlongo.
Mahumani and Chuma also refused to accept responsibility for their deeds, and asked the court not to sentence them.
In aggravation of sentence, the state advocate Absah Madzhuta called the elder brother of the deceased Richard Hlongwani who testified about an impact the killing had on the child of the deceased and her grandmother.
Hlungwani further said that the family was shocked and in pain and fearing for their lives along with other villagers. The death of the deceased has affected her child to an extent that she even failed at school. Knowing the cruel manner in which her mother was killed by a woman and men has left her reeling with fear. She is even afraid of her father and visitors.
Limpopo NPA Regional Spokesperson, Mashudu Malabi said all the accused pleaded not guilty and showed no remorse.
“The court remarked that this is a barbaric crime, where the deceased fought with all her energy, crying and trying to escape from her butchers. She suffered the most painful death, with her body parts, which were destiny to be sold, removed whilst she was still alive. Even more heartbreaking is the fact that her naked mother-in-law was the one performing the ritual and burning herbs to call Hlungwani ancestors to accept her spirit.
“Although every case is decided on its merits, this crime is very serious, more so because the deceased’s family had to bury their loved one with some of her body parts missing. The aggravating circumstances outweigh by far the mitigating factors of the accused. This type of murder is a classical barbaric one and trampled upon the deceased and her right to life in terms of section 11 of the Constitution.
“He also deplored the callousness of the murder, saying that the murder must have been premeditated. Some parts of the body, like the lips, private parts were cut off and the accused did not disclose where they are. Her body was found covered with maggots,” said Malabi.
The Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Ivy Thenga welcomed the sentence and commended the investigation team together with the state advocate Absa Madzhuta for the work well done.