‘I wish they never see the light of day,’ says mother of Gabisile Shabane, who was murdered for her body parts
As the high court sitting in Middelburg is on Thursday expected to sentence the three men convicted of the murder of Gabisile Shabane — a 13-year-old girl with albinism — her mother, Anna, begged the court to show no leniency to the killers.
The teenager and her 15-month-old nephew Nkosikhona Ngwenya were abducted from their home in Hlalanikahle in Emalahleni, formerly Witbank, in January 2018.
Shabane was killed, her skull, hands and private parts removed and used to make muti — and Ngwenya had been mistaken for another child living with albinism in the same house. When the abductors realised their mistake, they threw him over a bridge on the N4. He drowned in a swamp below the bridge.
They are now begging for mercy, saying that they have kids but they failed to feel pity on me when I screamed and begged for their mercyGabisile Shabane's mother, Anna
Shabane’s pained mother did not hold back as she took the stand on Wednesday afternoon and told the court exactly what she wanted to happen to the three men who butchered her daughter to make get-rich-quick potions.
“It is my wish that these men get 10 life sentences so that they never see the light of day. They are a danger to the public, they are heartless.
“They are now begging for mercy, saying that they have kids. But they failed to feel pity for me when I screamed and begged for their mercy [when they broke into my home],” said Shabane.
In mitigation of sentence, traditional healer Thokozani Msibi and his two accomplices, Knowledge Wezi Mhlanga and Brilliant Mkhize, had, through their lawyers, pleaded for leniency, saying they were first-time offenders who had children they needed to look after.
Msibi, who was in a polygamous marriage, told the court that he was a businessman who survived through his traditional healing business. Mhlanga told the court that he was a 28-year-old tutor who earned about R4,500 a month. He was a marketing student at Damelin. Mkhize, also 28, told the court that he had worked at a restaurant chain at the time of his incarceration and earned about R5,000 a month.
The court had found that their pursuit of wealth had led to them kidnapping and killing Shabane as they believed, after being informed by Msibi, that her body parts were the key ingredient they needed for a life of wealth and riches.
Shabane said with them being parents themselves, they should have thought of the pain they would have felt had the same been done to their children.
“If they were to ask me for forgiveness, I would say they should go and awaken my children who they killed to get mercy. Would they be able to do that?
“Would they agree to bringing their own kids before this court and have their kids subjected to what they did to my children? Would they agree to have their bodies mutilated or to have them thrown into a swamp like they did with my children?” Shabane asked.
She said her life had changed and she had lost all sense of direction since that day. Sadly, this was the same for her entire family who, she said, had all suffered mental breakdowns.
Gabisile's twin sister, Khanyisile, who did not have albinism, was among those who had suffered. In a victim impact statement, the now 16-year-old girl detailed how her sister’s death had hurt and affected her family forever. Her statement was read in court.
“I don’t know what my sister did to them for them to kill her so brutally because she was so kind and caring, but I hope that the law will play its part,” Khanyisile’s statement read.
Their grieving mother said: “I can never forgive them. The court must just sentence them and ensure that they never come back,”
Anna told the court that she was disturbed by the accused’s conduct during the court proceedings.
“What I saw from them is arrogance and pride and confidence that their lawyers would get them out of prison,” said Anna.
State prosecutor Ntsika Mpolweni told the court Shabane’s “only crime was being born a different skin colour.”
Gabisile Shabane's only crime was being born a different skin colour.”State prosecutor, Ntsika Mpolweni
Mpolweni told the court that “people with albinism are treated like ghosts ... and them being murdered because they are different was a whole different heartbreaking thing which was fuelled by a myth and superstition”.
Mpolweni had on Wednesday given the court strong reasons why it should not deviate from the prescribed minimum sentence of life imprisonment for anyone convicted for murder, saying the trio did not present any compelling circumstances.
He told the court that the trio had given “flimsy grounds” for their mitigation of sentence.
These men had been part of an elaborate plot to “hunt” for a person with albinism, had abducted Shabane and Ngwenya, removing them from a place of safety. He said they took advantage of the Shabanes because they knew that they would face no resistance since there were only women and children in the house.
Speaking about Shabane’s last moments alive, Mpolweni said: “I cannot imagine what Gabisile went through leading to her death, the terror that she went through.”
He was referring to testimony given in court by some of the men who were involved in her murder. These two men had turned state witness in exchange for them telling the court how they had killed Shabane. They testified about how she was given alcohol laced with brake fluid and forced to smoke dagga before she was taken into the veld where she was butchered. The court heard evidence of how the little girl did not scream as her killers cut into her.
“[Msibi] bragged about the mixture of the body parts and the court also heard how he would sharpen knives, preparing himself to go hunt for a person,” said Mpolweni.
Judge Heinrich Brauckmann said they failed to consider Shabane’s human rights as they killed her.
Instead, Mkhize and Mhlanga tried to reduce their role in the killing saying they had not been the ones who had severed Shabane’s body.
Mpolweni told the court that there was “no chance of rehabilitation because they had showed no remorse” for their actions.
Among the others involved in Shabane’s killing was Mfanasibili Gamedze, a traditional healer from Eswatini. He died behind bars while waiting to be extradited to face trial for Shabane's killing. He reportedly committed suicide.
Another was teacher turned businessman, Josiah Thubane, who pleaded guilty to the crimes after his arrest in 2018. Thubane had told the court how he had turned to Msibi — who he believed to be a powerful traditional healer — in the hope that he would help him acquire luck and success in his ailing business.
Haunted by his deeds, he confessed to the court and was handed two life sentences for Shabane and Ngwenya’s killing. He was meant to have been brought to court to testify against the three remaining accused but he died in January while in prison.