The High Court of South Africa, Eastern Cape Division, sitting in Mthatha sentenced Yibanathi MacGyver Ndema (45), to life imprisonment for the murder of his wife whose remains were found buried under a bathtub in their marital home at Zingqayi area in the district of Butterworth. The court further sentenced Ndema to five years on a charge of acts with intent to defeat the course of justice. He was sentenced to two years on each of the three counts of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, suspended for five years. The court declared him unfit to possess a firearm.

Delivering the sentence, Judge Buyiswa Majiki, directed the children of the couple to continue receiving trauma counselling as they were left traumatised by the murder of their mother by their father, whom they used to trust and love. She revealed that Ndema continues to contact them telephonically, while in custody. She agreed with the prosecution that the prevalence of crimes of this nature in the whole country calls for expressly punitive sentences. Ndema, murdered his wife, Noluvuyo Nonkwelo (36), on 01 July 2019. On 03 July 2019, he reported his wife as a missing person to the police, even though he knew that was not true.

The marriage had been marred by domestic abuse, with the court convicting Ndema of the 18 September 2018, 22 January and 27 June 2019, assaults on his wife. The assaults were by a stick, clenched fists, open hands, burning her with hot water and pulling her with her hair. While still alive, the deceased once opened a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm against him and was granted a protection order in January 2019. But both the case and the protection order were later withdrawn.

Ndema was arrested in August 2021, after Nonkwelo’s remains were found buried underneath a bathtub, in the bathroom of the house the couple shared. The couple’s children alerted their grandparents that since their mother’s disappearance, the bathtub had been repositioned. That prompted the police to search Ndema’s home, leading to the discovery of the remains. DNA results confirmed that the remains were indeed those of Nonkwelo and were released to her family for proper burial. Postmortem results revealed that the deceased died because of a fractured neck. Ndema initially abandoned bail, but at a later stage, he made a U-turn and applied for bail, which was successfully opposed by the prosecution.

During the trial, he pleaded not guilty. He also distanced himself from a confession he made to the police admitting that he had strangled his wife to death because she was having an extramarital affair, necessitating a trial-within-a-trial. The court ultimately admitted the confession, together with the disputed pointing-outs. After securing the conviction of Ndema, Senior State Advocate Sibusiso Nolutshungu prayed for the court to impose a life sentence and the court agreed.

Eastern Cape Director of Public Prosecutions Barry Madolo commended the sterling work of the prosecutor and the investigating team. He particularly appreciated the role played by the father of the deceased in assisting the investigations, which led to the discovery of the remains, as well as his testimony during the trial.

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