Themba Thubane, a 41-year-old qualified teacher, was arrested together with Thokozani Msibi – a traditional healer, Brilliant Mkhize, and Knowledge Mhlanga. Contrary to his co-accused, Thubane opted to plead guilty to seven charges including housebreaking, kidnapping and murder, reports Middelburg Observer.
Judge Sekgopotje Mpahlela said during sentencing proceedings that the matter before court, wherein 13-year-old Gabisile Shabane and her cousin, 15-month-old Nkosi Ngwenya were killed, is testimony of the horrific circumstances people with albinism face. Not only were they subjected to stigmatisation and ridicule, but also to unspeakable violence.
It was testified in court that Thubane was married, had three children aged 17, 12, and five with his wife and another eight-year-old girl out of wedlock. He was the sole provider for all his children.
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He pleaded for the court’s mercy and also claimed to have written letters to the family of the victims as well as to other people living with albinism. The letters were read in court, but never reached their intended audience before the trial.
Thubane testified that after committing the crimes, he realised it was wrong. He consulted with a friend in the police who told him to keep quiet about his acts and with a pastor who told him that God would forgive him.
A social worker testified about the impact of the crimes on the families and the traumatising circumstances they faced.
Gabisile’s Grade 7 English teacher testified how she was an intelligent child who had received several academic awards. Her mother testified how she dreamed of becoming a fashion designer and how traumatised her twin sister had been after her murder.
Judge Mpahlele said that it was clear that the crimes were committed because of greed and the drive for financial gain.
“The accused is a qualified teacher. For him to claim that someone else made him believe that there is nothing wrong with killing someone living with albinism for financial gain is ridiculous,” said Judge Mpahlele.
She said Thubane was blinded by the desire to become rich. She further found that Thubane’s behaviour was indicative of a lack of remorse, despite his claims.
Judge Mpahlele said that the case before court demonstrated the plight of people living with albinism, saying they were vulnerable. Mpahlele referred to the traditional healer referring to them as “things”, as if they were not human.
Before the victims were kidnapped and murdered, their attackers already had inside info about the family and the layout of their house.
The crimes were premeditated and a 15 month-old baby was taken with his cousin, even though it was clear from the moment when his kidnappers brought him to the car, that he would not be needed. He was later dropped from a bridge into a stream where he drowned.
Gabisile was dragged to the car wearing only her panties. She was killed and her body was buried in a shallow grave. When she was discovered, her head, heart, liver, left arm and genitalia were missing.
Judge Mpahlele called for the education of South Africans about albinism. She said that traditional healers must take the lead in disbanding myths about people living with albinism.
Thubane was sentenced to life imprisonment each on two counts of murder, five years for housebreaking, and five years each on two counts of kidnapping.
Judge Mpahlele said that the sentence of one count of kidnapping and murder should run concurrently sending him to an effective 55 years behind bars.
The elated public bench clapped hands when she handed down the sentence.