'Black widow' fails to win appeal for hired murder of her husband

29 January 2021 - 18:15 By belinda pheto
The high court in Johannesburg on Friday dismissed convicted killer Mulalo Sivhidzho's appeal against her conviction and sentence.
The high court in Johannesburg on Friday dismissed convicted killer Mulalo Sivhidzho's appeal against her conviction and sentence.
Image: Sowetan/File

The high court in Johannesburg has dismissed convicted killer Mulalo Sivhidzho’s appeal against her sentence and conviction for her involvement in the murder of her husband, Avhatakali Netshisaulu.

In 2011, Sivhidzho, infamously known as the “black widow”, was sentenced to a life sentence plus eight years for hiring hitmen to kill Netshisaulu. They had been married just under a year at the time of the December 2006 killing.

Netshisaulu was kidnapped, robbed and burnt alive while locked inside the boot of his car.

In December 2012, the Supreme Court of Appeal granted Sivhidzho leave to appeal against the conviction and sentence and there were delays in executing the appeal due to the reconstruction of the record.

“The record is exceptionally voluminous as are the heads of argument filed, in particular by the state,” reads the judgment.

In her appeal, Sivhidzho had raised a number of contentions regarding the manner the trial was conducted. She was also challenging her conviction on the grounds that:

  • the confession should not have been admitted due to her allegedly being tortured;
  • her constitutional right to legal representation was not complied with; and
  • the state and the court should not be permitted to “delay the matter such that the right of appeal is thwarted”.

She also challenged her sentence on the grounds that the court misdirected itself and imposed an unjust sentence.

The appeal court found that the trial court in the exercise of its discretion on sentence took into account relevant factual findings such as the fact that the deceased “died a cruel and painful death”. 

The appeal court ruled that there was no material misdirection on the part of the trial court in both the conviction and the sentence imposed and ruled as follows:

  • The state successfully proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Sivhidzho was not coerced nor tortured into submitting her statement as various state witnesses, including a doctor, corroborated each other’s versions that she had no visible injuries. The fact that she never laid a criminal charge of assault against the people who she alleged assaulted her weighed heavily against her so-called defence of “torture”.
  • She was the only one at the scene of the crime that was certain that the charred remains found in the boot of the vehicle were that of her husband, though DNA tests were yet to be conducted.
  • Cellphone records between Sivhidzho and accused 1 clearly indicated that they were updating one another about the progress of their plan.
  • The trial court was correct in arriving at the conclusion that the text message sent by Sivhidzho to Mathata Tsedu — wherein she said “materials put us Christians into temptations and do evil things to get materials for this world” — amounted to evidence aliunde (ie. no other meaning could be derived from her statement) that there the trial court did not misdirect itself in finding that the murder was premeditated and was therefore justified in sentencing all accused to life imprisonment.

The court also said what was aggravating was the fact that this plan was executed while the deceased’s mother and little sister visited and she exposed them to the gruesome sight.

The sentence was justifiable and fair, with no substantial and compelling circumstances present to reduce the minimum sentence of life imprisonment.

Sivhidzho, who remained in custody all along, will continue serving her life sentence.

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