Justice for elderly woman killed for ‘witchcraft’

The High Court of South Africa in the Eastern Cape Division, sitting in Sterkspruit sentenced four men who were found guilty of murdering a 92-year-old woman, whom they accused of witchcraft.

Mzubongile Manundu (36), Sithembiso Yalwa (52), Siyabulela Manundu (34) and Mlungisi Manundu (40), were sentenced to 20 years for murder, and two for accusing the elderly woman of witchcraft.

The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently but suspended five years of the 20 year sentence. The co-accused, Nkosiyoxolo Velemani (41), was charged for witchcraft accusations and assault with intent to harm and was sentenced to two and five years respectively. The two years was suspended, and he looked at serving five years.

On 14 March 2020, the funeral service of Samkelo Manundu who was stabbed to death in Cape Town was held in Majuba village in Sterkspruit.

The Spokesperson for the NPA in the Eastern Cape, Luxolo Tyali, reported that after the cleansing ceremony, the men went to Nosayinethe Manundu’s home. They insisted that she bring out Samkelo who they believed was alive and kept in a suitcase.

Tyali described the chilling details of the attack. “They ripped off the elderly woman’s clothes, they beat her, and pushed her inside her rondavel and locked her inside, and they set it on fire.”

The elderly woman was able to escape her rondavel that was engulfed in flames, but the men chased her and caught her. Unable to bring her back to the rondavel because of the flames, they plunged her headfirst into a tank full of water and drowned her, Tyali recounted this incident.

All the convicted men were relatives of the victim, Yalwa being a neighbour.

Some parts of this attack were recorded with a mobile phone. The men were arrested and detained for a few days. Their request for bail was rejected.

“During the trial, they claimed they were not guilty, contradicting the actions that were seen in the video that was part of the evidence that was presented before the court,” said Tyali.

The video went viral on social media and was also shown on television.

Although there was a push for life imprisonment, Judge Mbulelo Jolwana found that these men can still be reformed as they were first-time offenders.

The Director of Public Prosecutions in the Eastern Cape, Barry Madolo, praised the Prosecutor and the Investigating Officer, Colonel Nobesutu Dinga, for ensuring justice for this woman. He said that the harsh sentences will be a lesson to others who kill elderly people accusing them of witchcraft, which tends to be common in the Eastern Cape.