'Black widow' shown no mercy for murder

01 March 2011 - 00:16 By KHETHIWE CHELEMU

The woman who showed "no mercy" to the husband she murdered was yesterday given no leniency by the judge who handed her a life sentence.

Johannesburg High Court Acting Judge Naren Pandya gave "Black Widow" Mulalo Sivhidzho, 33, a life sentence plus eight years for hiring hitmen to kill her husband of six months, Avhatakali Netshisaulu.

The verdict ended Sivhidzho's parading in glamorous clothes, brazen laughter, petulant utterances and the stroppy attitude she displayed to members of her dead husband's family, and to the journalists who covered the case for the past four years.

Pandya found yesterday that the murder of the Anglo Platinum chartered accountant was carried out with "extreme brutality".

"The deceased was still alive, after having been assaulted, tied up and placed inside the boot of his car. Petrol was poured over him," Pandya said.

"He died of carbon monoxide poisoning. He died a cruel death. He was cremated while still alive. It was clear that the deceased was shown no mercy."

Netshisaulu had been back in South Africa for barely a year before he was murdered. Only months before, he was in the UK, having been awarded a Nelson Mandela Scholarship to study for a master's degree in business administration.

But, on December 7 2006, his bludgeoned and charred body was found in the boot of his burned-out car in an open field in Muldersdrift, northwest of Johannesburg.

Hitman Ntabudzeni Matsenene, 34, was the first to be arrested, three days after the killing. The second hired killer, Arnold Sello, 33, was arrested the following day.

It took police a further 16 days to arrest Sivhidzho. They first wanted to observe her behaviour at her husband's funeral, at which she played the role of grieving widow. All the while, her father-in-law, former City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu, and the Netshisaulu family, knew she was putting on an act.

Sivhidzho and her hitmen have consistently denied involvement in Netshisaulu's murder. Yesterday, all insisted that they had been wrongfully convicted.

Pandya sentenced Matsenene to the maximum - life in prison - as well as five years for kidnapping and three years for malicious damage to property.

Sello got the same, but with an additional 15 years for aggravated robbery.

As he was being led down into the court cells, Matsenene said: "I am not feeling good that I will be going to jail but there is nothing I can do. Life is just like that. These things happen. I consider this as bad luck.

"A lot of innocent people like myself are convicted for crimes they did not commit. I plan to appeal."

Pandya said yesterday that Netshisaulu's murder was "preplanned and premeditated". Matsenene recruited "hit men", and Sivhidzho was "behind" the murderous "task team".

"There was careful planning that went into the murder. [Netshisaulu] no doubt trusted Matsenene, who not only found hit men but also enticed [Netshisaulu] into a trap that night," he said.

Prosecutor Maro Papachristoforou said Matsenene "led the sheep to be slaughtered". Pandya agreed, adding that Sivhidzho played a pivotal role.

"She knew he was going to be killed that night, and the vicinity.

"She went and searched for the deceased and refused to go to the police station," he said, adding that she directed the friend who drove her to the murder scene straight to it.

The contention of a defence witness that Sivhidzho should receive a lesser sentence because she had not killed her husband herself, and was not present when he was murdered, was irrelevant, said Pandya.

"What is relevant is that she wanted her husband dead."

"It is clear that this was a contract killing. Both Matsenene and Sello had agreed that they had both received monetary payments," he said. Sivhidzho paid them R4000.

During the trial, Sivhidzho claimed that her husband came home late and received SMSs from other women.

"She said she was afraid that he was going to leave her, that there was no longer love at home and that they had been married out of community of property," Pandya said.

Though Netshisaulu bought his wife a house and a car, and had taken her on a cruise during their six-month marriage, that was still not enough for her, he said.

"It would appear that, in the short time that they were married, he had given her everything a newly married bride could ever want" and that Netshisaulu was repaid by being murdered in a "cold-blooded and callous manner", Pandya said.

After Pandya pronounced the life sentences, the overflowing public gallery erupted in applause.

Sivhidzho stood stony faced throughout proceedings and afterwards hugged her parents and friends. She began to weep only as she descended to the holdings cells, with a group of women shouting after her: "Bye-bye Mulalo. Go to jail where you belong."

Her father, Takalani, still believes that she is innocent.

But her former father-in-law said she had caused his family nothing but "tremendous pain".

"She has hurt the two families in a way that we find no English words to describe. We hope she is able to live with her conscience," said MathathaTsedu.

He said the sentence "takes me to a space where I can say, 'It is okay to let go, it is okay to move on. It is okay to let Avhatakali rest in peace."

He thinks about his son "all the time".

"Memories of him are triggered by a lot of things . sometimes when I am driving and I see a white Golf. My son was hard working and had a very good sense of humour."

Netshisaulu's mother, Dzudzanani, a nursing sister, said: "I am very relieved that justice has finally been done, but it can never bring back my son. I think about him all the time. My mind is always preoccupied about the way in which he died."

Soweto resident Sinah Sehube, who has watched the court proceedings for the past four years, carried a poster that read: "D-Day for Mulalo case. Heartless criminal, liar, bad horrible girl. Well done Maro, excellent job. Keep it up. Muthi girl go well. Sinners will not go to heaven."