“WE WILL never forgive him.”
These were the words of the final witness in the Tholeni serial killer trial.
Tholeni community activist Nomfundiso Mpontshane said she spoke for the entire village when she condemned serial killer Bulelani Mabhayi for his rape and murder spree that saw 19 women and children killed in their home village.
Mabhayi murdered a 20th woman from another village.
State prosecutor advocate Ndoyisile Lamla called Mpontshane as part of his argument for aggravating circumstances ahead of Mabhayi’s sentencing.
Mabhayi lived in the Mpontshane household throughout his reign of terror in Tholeni village, from 2008 to 2012.
He lived just metres from a victim crisis centre set up in 2009 to protect women and children in the area from his violence.
Mpontshane said the community was terrified of having men as protectors, so the women decided to protect each other.
“We could not agree to have men look after us because we knew some of them were the perpetrators,” she said.
Social workers came to Tholeni to assist them, Mpontshane said, and that was when the crisis centre was set up.
“People realised we were being abused by male persons and the victim centre would be there to help us,” she added.
“We decided that as womenfolk we should try to run away from the likes of people like Mabhayi.”
She said it was after the Mxhunyelwa family was brutally murdered that the centre became a place of refuge, and women from around Tholeni slept there with their children and grandchildren.
Mabhayi murdered Nomandla, Liyema, 1, and Lukhanyo Mxhunyelwa, 13, in May 2012.
While talking about the murder of this family, Mpontshane broke down in tears.
Presiding Judge Noluthando Conjwa offered to adjourn court for a few minutes for her to compose herself but she said she could carry on testifying.
Mpontshane said the centre was established in her yard – and unbeknown to the women, the source of their fears lived only metres away. She said the women, some of them over 70, were so afraid they left everything in their own homes to sleep together in the centre.
While testifying, Mpontshane stared straight ahead at the dock where Mabhayi was sitting.
She said some of the women were so traumatised that no men were allowed anywhere near the crisis centre.
Lamla told Mpontshane about Mabhayi’s Tuesday apology.
“He told this court he’s very sorry for what he did and he realises what he did was wrong. He apologised to the people of Tholeni and of South Africa. What do you have to say to that?”
Mpontshane grew angry.
Raising her voice and staring straight ahead she said: “We will never forgive you.”
In his address to the judge, advocate Simphiwe Soga submitted to the court in mitigation that three matters should be taken into consideration – the fact that Mabhayi pleaded guilty, that there “are prospects of him being rehabilitated”, as well as that Mabhayi is a known dagga smoker, having smoked dagga since his teens.
Soga also submitted that the sentences of those crimes that were committed on the same day – such as when Mabhayi murdered all the occupants of a single household – should run concurrently.
In his submission on aggravating circumstances, Lamla agreed that, where Mabhayi committed offences “at the same time and place”, his sentences should run concurrently. Lamla recommended Mabhayi be sentenced to life behind bars for each count of rape and murder – 26 charges in total.
He further recommended Mabhayi be given a minimum “no parole” period of 45 years.
The trial was adjourned until Tuesday for sentencing.
Read more on this story at the Daily Dispatch.
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