WATCH | State mulls exhumation of Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu’s son

16 November 2021 - 10:35

The state is digging into serial killer Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu’s past, looking at the period before 2012 to ascertain whether there were any other relatives she may have killed to cash in on insurance monies.

One of the cases the state has set its sights on relates to the death of Jaunty Khoza — Ndlovu’s 13-year-old son who died in 2008.

The boy, who had lived in Bushbuckridge with his grandmother, died in Johannesburg when he visited Ndlovu during the school holidays. It was the first and last visit he had ever made to his mother’s home.

Advocate Riana Williams spoke to TimesLIVE in her office at the National Prosecuting Authority building in the Johannesburg CBD. Several thick files from Ndlovu’s trial were placed on a couch next to her desk. Two dockets, linked to Ndlovu, lay closed. One of them was Jaunty’s docket. 

“The sad thing about Jaunty’s case is that we are not certain how he died,” said Williams.  

“The toxicology report shows no traces of toxins found in his body, but at this stage we are considering reopening this case, exhuming the body and looking at whether there is a possibility that Jaunty was poisoned by his mom.’’

Advocate Riana Williams said she had received two dockets involving Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu.
Advocate Riana Williams said she had received two dockets involving Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu.
Image: Catherine White

Williams was the prosecutor who delivered a solid case during the former Thembisa policewoman’s trial, which was concluded earlier this month. The court sentenced Ndlovu to six life terms for killing six of her relatives.

Regarding Jaunty’s matter, the investigator in the case, Sgt Keshi Benneth Mabunda, explained that an organ taken from Jaunty for toxicology testing after his death had lain untested in a lab from 2008 until 2019. 

It was only tested when Mabunda inquired about the results. Nothing out of the ordinary was found.

“We don’t know whether the reason they could not find traces of any toxins was because of how long the organ had been left there. Maybe with the time gone by, the poison has dissolved. We have consulted with professors who said the best thing to do to determine Jaunty’s cause of death may be to exhume his body,’’ Mabunda said.

After Jaunty’s death, Mabunda said, a docket was opened at the same police station where Ndlovu worked.

When Mabunda began looking into the deaths of Ndlovu’s relatives, Jaunty’s inquest docket, however, was nowhere to be found.

Mabunda said he was shocked when during Ndlovu’s bail application in March 2018, the docket turned up in possession of her lawyer who allowed him to make copies of it.

Williams said the docket they had in their possession did not have much in it.

She said the evidence they had was that “Jaunty was admitted into hospital where he passed away and his mom was there, present” — drawing similarities to the other deaths in her family where it was always noted that Ndlovu was either with the deceased before or immediately after they died.

“This is one of the sad cases and I hope we can find justice for Jaunty as well,” she said.

For all the other victims, Ndlovu was able to claim about R1.4m in either life or funeral insurance policies. It was no different for Jaunty. She claimed several funeral insurance policies.

TimesLIVE has also learnt that after his death, Ndlovu had gained access to a trust fund that Jaunty’s deceased father Khoza had left for him. Jaunty would have only have had access to the funds once he reached 18. 

Williams said when preparing for the initial trial, they had to weigh up whether to delay the proceedings to gain all the information needed to prosecute Ndlovu for Jaunty’s death or go ahead and reopen the docket later. They chose the latter, saying with Ndlovu having spent more than three years in jail, awaiting trial, this would have been seen as a delay in justice. 

Jaunty is possibly one of several people who might also have lost their lives for Ndlovu’s benefit.

“There have been other policies [that Ndlovu claimed for] if one remembers the evidence of [insurance officials]. Ndlovu had applied for numerous policies since 2006. So now is the time we can start looking at those cases because some of those dockets have been closed,” said Williams.

“In the cases we prosecuted, had it not been for Sgt Mabunda’s dedication and passion to see justice done, I don’t think the pattern of Rosemary Nomia Ndlovu’s crimes would have come to light.”

She strongly believed that had Mabunda not nabbed Ndlovu, she definitely would have continued killing.

“In the evidence presented by the state during the trial, there were numerous policies for some her living family members who were not dead yet,’’ she said.

One of the people listed among Ndlovu’s policies was Lucy Mushwana, Ndlovu’s maternal aunt who was also the mother of one of her victims, Witness Madala Homu.

Homu was murdered in 2012 and his body found dumped in Kaalfontein. He had gone to work and never returned home after Ndlovu warned his mother, Mushwana to get him covered by her burial society, saying anything could happen to him as he was “trouble”. Mushwana told the court that this had puzzled her as her son was a devout member of the ZCC church who neither drank nor smoked.

On how Ndlovu had also possibly set her sights on her, Mushwana had testified that Ndlovu had inquired about her date of birth.

When Homu died, Ndlovu contributed R200 for his funeral, despite her cashing in on more than R131,000 in insurance funds. The family had been unaware of the policies she had taken out in her cousin’s name.

Williams said Ndlovu took out policies on all of the deceased shortly before they died due to unnatural circumstances.

Another docket which the state is now looking into is one where Ndlovu was a co-accused in a conspiracy to commit murder. Williams said the case involved a police officer who allegedly plotted to kill her husband with Ndlovu’s help. The plot failed. 

Another pending case involves Ndlovu allegedly threatening the life of Mabunda, his son and the station commander she was working under at the Thembisa south police station at the time of her arrest.

Mabunda told TimesLIVE about the lengths he went to to protect his wife and son from the serial killer. 

“She hired people to kill me. She said if she doesn’t get me, she will make me suffer by getting my son at school. She said she knew where my son went to school and she threatened to bury him alive,” said Mabunda.

He said he did not tell his wife nor child about Ndlovu’s threats and chose rather to keep an eye on them, escorting his wife from work on days when she knocked off in the evening and attending his son’s extra mural activities and dropping him at home afterwards.

Joyce Ndlovu was told by police how her sister Rosemary Ndlovu had wanted to kill her and her five children. File photo.
Joyce Ndlovu was told by police how her sister Rosemary Ndlovu had wanted to kill her and her five children. File photo.
Image: Ziphozonke Lushaba

Ndlovu’s fate was sealed by Mabunda and Williams, an experienced legal mind, who has been a prosecutor for about 14 years and has over the years brought numerous serial rapists and serial killers to book.

We asked her whether there was anything that made Ndlovu different from the rest.

“I can say this is the first female serial murderer that I have dealt with ... [Serial murders] are not really a new matter for me but this case was different in the fact that she killed her own family and her own partner. So the emotional aspects of this matter and the facts of brutality will forever haunt me,’’ said Williams.

“When you think of how these bodies were dumped like dogs ... like rubbish ... They had served their purpose and she had enriched herself.’’

Of her six loved ones that Ndlovu killed, four of them were found dumped in either a veld or outside a house.

Asked about Ndlovu’s behaviour in court — where at one point she had her legs shackled after numerous tirades against the media — Williams said that was not the Ndlovu that she had met at the beginning of the trial.

“Ndlovu did not show those antics before the press started following the case. Prior to that she was calm, greeted me every morning, was calm and collected,’’ said Williams, who added that it was “a shame” to see Ndlovu evolve.

“She made a mockery of the court process from that stage [when the media joined].’’

The state put up a strong case against Ndlovu with 54 witnesses being brought to the stand, including Ndlovu’s sister, Joyce, who narrowly escaped being burnt alive in her home in Bushbuckridge — an attack which had been planned by Ndlovu.

Ndlovu had hired hitmen to set Joyce and her five children alight in the home so that she could claim on insurance funds. The hired men went to the police, putting an end to Ndlovu’s killing sprees.

Witnesses after giving their testimony came to me and said they see snakes in her eyes.
Prosecutor Riana Williams 

Williams said many witnesses were afraid of Ndlovu.

“What is a matter of concern is some of the witnesses, after giving their testimony, came to me and said they see snakes in her eyes.

“I don’t know how they saw snakes but even the court interpreter, stenographer and police officers in court informed me that they saw snakes in her eyes. For some reason, Mabunda and I never saw the snakes in her eyes.”

Williams and Ndlovu greeted each other politely every morning during the trial. “Because even though she is a criminal or murderer, she is still a human being and in terms of our constitution, she deserves the rights of another human being, even though [some] members of society may be up in arms about it.”

She welcomed the lengthy sentence for Ndlovu, saying she knew from the start that Ndlovu was guilty.

“I don’t think any sentence would [compensate for] the major loss that the families suffered. But I am satisfied and overjoyed with the sentence. I believe justice has been served and Nomia will serve the rest of her days in jail,’’ said Williams.

She described Ndlovu as a manipulative person with no remorse.

Ndlovu only had one person testifying in her defence, which was her mother, Maria Mushwana.

Mushwana had been informed by the police that a hitman had told police how Ndlovu had given him a down payment to murder her. The hitman said he got to the house and found the frail old woman and could not kill her. Instead, he asked for water and left.

Mushwana, however, stood by her daughter’s side, saying she could not even recall the supposed hitman coming to her house.

Williams, however, said: “I think the mother knew about Ndlovu’s actions. I just think she had a bond with Rosemary which was beyond a mother-daughter bond but I cannot explain it. I feel sorry for Ndlovu’s mother. She will never acknowledge that her daughter killed people, her own sister and her sister’s son, other relatives and family members.”

The relationship between her and Ndlovu caused strain in her sister Joyce’s relationship with her mother, saying she felt her mother had chosen to stay by her sister, despite the mountain of evidence against her. 

With many questions still lingering about what exactly drove Ndlovu to kill — perhaps a quest for wealth, anger or a love for gambling — Williams said in her experience, those are questions for which we may never get answers.

“The difficulty with serial murderers ... what I found is that they never tell you the truth. So for us, we never came from a point of view of being able to pinpoint that this was when things went haywire. During her bail application, Ndlovu had said she took out life insurance policies after her father passed away, leaving her and her family very poor. So she realised she needed to take these policies to pay for funeral costs.

“But we cannot say what actually happened with Rosemary Ndlovu. What made her this person?’’

Williams said though Ndlovu admitted to being a fan of gambling, she never admitted to gambling being her driving force to kill. 

“Psychologists may perhaps sit with her and do an in-depth study of her persona and development, but the question will be, would she be honest? I don’t think so. I don’t think she ever will be.”

She was pleased to have seen the matter through to conclusion, describing Ndlovu’s case as a prosecutor’s dream as the puzzles fitted perfectly. 

On her quest for justice, Williams said: “I believe I was the voice of the victims. I always feel I have a duty towards the victims because they no longer have a voice.

“Nomia had her reign until 2018 and then God stepped in and it was done.”

The state is investigating whether Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu had anything to do with the death of her son, Jaunty Khoza, who died in 2008. She is also a co-accused in another case, where she is accused of being an accomplice in a conspiracy to commit murder. File photo.
The state is investigating whether Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu had anything to do with the death of her son, Jaunty Khoza, who died in 2008. She is also a co-accused in another case, where she is accused of being an accomplice in a conspiracy to commit murder. File photo.
Image: Thulani Mbele

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