Tembisa mom who killed newborn daughter sentenced to 10 years in jail

25 February 2019 - 16:50
By Shain Germaner
A judge on Monday sentenced a mother to 10 years in jail for murdering her newborn baby.
Image: 123RF/Stockstudio44 A judge on Monday sentenced a mother to 10 years in jail for murdering her newborn baby.

The Tembisa mother who murdered her child moments after giving birth has been given an effective 10-year prison sentence for the killing and for trying to conceal the birth.

Zikhona Mndela was arrested in October 2016 after lying to authorities about the whereabouts of her newborn daughter.

She had murdered the child, wrapped her in plastic and a jacket, and then shoved her into a tin full of paint.

At the time, she insisted she'd had a miscarriage and was trying to protect the body from rats by hiding it in the paint can. It was an argument she maintained throughout her criminal trial in the high court in Johannesburg, even until sentencing proceedings last week.

On Monday morning, judge Ratha Mokgoatlheng ultimately sided with Mndela’s lawyer’s arguments that there were compelling and substantial circumstances that would allow the court to deviate from the usual life sentence for murder.

Last week, advocate Sindisa Hlazo argued that Mndela was a victim and that life imprisonment for the murder was not an appropriate sentence. Hlazo argued that the state should have taken a victim impact statement from his client, taking note of how she felt following the death of her child.

“This is something that will haunt her for the rest of her life - the court should accept this as fact,” he said.

Hlazo argued that his client had acted in an irrational manner on the night of the birth due to the trauma of the situation, and that she Had not had time to make a rational decision. Her family’s failure to support her during her pregnancy, as well as the father not wanting anything to do with the child, had placed her in a difficult situation, he added.

Prosecutor Jacqui Drotsky earlier argued that Mndela had repeatedly lied to authorities about her pregnancy and that her claims of having a miscarriage were disproven by the postmortem report on the infant’s body.

Regarding her supposed reasoning for hiding the infant’s body, Drotsky said there had been clear intent in Mndela’s actions when she wrapped the child's body and placed the lid back on the tin of paint to hide her crime.

However, Mokgoatlheng ultimately decided to deviate from the minimum prescribed sentencing for the murder charge, instead sentencing Mndela to 10 years in prison for the murder, with a further three years for concealing the birth, a sentence that will run concurrently.