'Mulalo is a victim'

23 February 2011 - 23:10 By KHETHIWE CHELEMU

A defence witness has tried to convince the Johannesburg High Court that convicted husband-killer Mulalo Sivhidzho wasn't all that bad.

Presenting his evidence in mitigation of sentence, private forensic criminologist Eon Sonnekus said the court should send her to jail for 12 years and not life because she was "raised as a Christian".

In addition, he said, the woman who masterminded the murder of her husband, Avhatakali Netshisaulu, was not at the scene of his murder and therefore could not control her hired assassins and "the brutality of the crime".

Sonnekus - who said Sivhidzho was "not a psychopath but a socially adaptive individual" - said that She was a "vulnerable woman" who needed "extensive support".

The pre-sentencing proceedings of Sivhidzho, 30, and of her co-accused, Ntabudzeni Matzhenene, 29, and Arnold Sello, 28, were marked by heated exchanges between Acting Judge Naren Pandya and prosecutor Maro Papachristoforou.

Pandya berated Papachristoforou for asking "irrelevant questions" and verbally attacking Sonnekus while she cross-examined him.

The three were convicted four years to the day after the murder on December 7 2006 of the son of former City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu.

Netshisaulu, 31, a chartered accountant at Anglo Platinum, was kidnapped, stoned and burnt alive in the boot of his car.

His charred remains were found that evening in open veld in Muldersdrift, northwest of Johannesburg.

During her cross-examination, Papachristoforou attacked Sonnekus's credibility, saying that he was often paid to give favourable reports for accused persons and that his assessment of Sivhidzho was compiled without proper consultation with her and key state witnesses.

Sonnekus testified that Sivhidzho was afraid of violent people and feared the sight of blood after witnessing a knife attack as a teenager.

Sonnekus, however, quoted Tsedu, who told him during a consultation: "My son was a young man with a hell of a future. He was killed in a brutal manner. No one should go through what my family and I have gone through."

Tsedu told him that the fact that his son's wife was involved, as well as the way in which she behaved after his death, made it more painful for him.

Netshisaulu's mother, Dzudzuzani, told Sonnekus during their consultation that the death of her first-born robbed her of her identity.

"I lost my own identity. At funerals I am now called the mother whose son was burnt alive," she was quoted as saying.

Sonnekus said Sivhidzho still insisted that she was innocent and was struggling to come to terms with the judge's verdict.

He said she believed Netshisaulu was cheating on her and that he would often receive SMSs and late-night calls from other women, which hurt her.

"In my opinion, she expressed regret about the events that transpired . she did not seem to express her emotions due to the fact that she needed to defend herself," he said. Sentencing continues tomorrow.