Man spared death sentence for strong witchcraft beliefs

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A Zimbabwean man’s unshakable belief in witchcraft saved him from being hanged for killing his neighbour after a judge found that his beliefs were an extenuating factor.

According to media reports, Vusumuzi Ndlovu, 32, of Kezi, Matabeleland South, will serve a jail term of 26 years for killing his neighbour, Laiza Ndlovu, 48, whom he accused of causing his wife’s miscarriage, and later her death, through witchcraft.

Sparing the man from a death sentence, Justice Nicholas Ndou said at the Bulawayo High Court on Wednesday: “It is clear that the accused believes in witchcraft and holds the belief that everybody consults traditional healers. It was his evidence that he regularly consults traditional healers and the court therefore finds this as an extenuating circumstance.”

Justice Ndou said he had relied on numerous decided cases that beliefs in witchcraft constituted an extenuating factor. But the judge said the “gruesome” nature of the murder, in June 2005, deserved to be punished with a lengthy jail term. He told Ndlovu: “Violence should never be used as a way of resolving differences. This was a gruesome murder perpetrated on an elderly defenceless woman on the belief that she had caused the death of your wife and child. You aimed the blows at the head.”

Ndlovu had pleaded not guilty to the murder. His lawyer, Nikiwe Ncube, of Webb, Low and Barry, said the victim had fuelled Ndlovu’s actions by threatening to cause death in his family in a long-standing love feud.

Ndlovu told the court during his trial that when his wife was pregnant, the victim told her that she was not going to give birth. Laiza Ndlovu is said to have held a grudge against her neighbours over a past relationship between Ndlovu and one of her daughters whom he had broken up with.

After the victim’s threats, said Ndlovu in his defence, his wife miscarried seven months into her pregnancy. “The child survived for one day and passed away. My wife became ill and her stomach started swelling and she died. (Laiza Ndlovu) said I had learnt a lesson and asked how I was going to bury two people since I was poor and did not have money,” he said.

Prosecuting, Simbarashe Timothy Makoni told the court that on June 7, 2005, Ndlovu had armed himself with an axe and gone to the victim’s home in the Chief Nyangazonke area. “He knocked on the door and identified himself. He lied to the deceased that his father had died and she woke up and opened the door. She went and sat on a sofa in the living room and asked one of the people who were with her to bring a light,” said Makoni.

Ndlovu stood all the time and without uttering a word, he launched into a frenzied attack on the victim, striking her several times on the head with an axe until she fell to her death, the court heard.

Ndlovu was arrested after neighbours were alerted. A post mortem report on the dead woman said the cause of death was severe brain damage as a result of multiple skull fractures.

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