By Anna Shilongo
Sixty-three year-old Vilho Nghidimbwa, convicted by the High Court last week on a charge of murder, was sentenced to 16 years in jail of which four years were suspended for a period of five years.
The five years’ suspension are on condition that he is not convicted of murder or assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm for which a direct period of imprisonment without a fine would be imposed.
Nghidimbwa was accused of killing a cattle herder Hofni Johannes (45) on 13 July 2003 at Uudhiya village in Ondangwa after he suspected Johannes of having a sexual relationship with his wife.
Nghindimbwa who appeared before Judge Kato van Niekerk in the High Court was represented by Lucia Hamutenya on instructions from the Legal Aid Directorate, while State advocate Ed Marondedze prosecuted
Before he was sentenced, his counsel Hamutenya submitted that her client was old and pleaded that the court be lenient with him when sentencing. Her client is of an “advanced age”, she said.
She also noted that he is a man who believes in witchcraft, and he had a vision before he committed the murder, a vision of people surrounding him, threatening him with death and people with long ears like horses’ ears as well as people hanging from trees.
Hamutenya submitted that her client committed the offence and that on two occasions Nghidimbwa found his wife and Johannes sleeping together.
During the trial, Nghidimbwa claimed that he had caught his wife and the deceased sleeping together on two occasions before the murder.
He claimed that his wife left him after he had warned the duo to stop cheating on him.
He also claimed that some villagers and the deceased had gathered near his home for a period of one week threatening to kill him.
He claimed that he had had strange dreams of people threatening to kill him and people’s ears growing longer like donkeys’ ears.
Nghidimbwa told the court that he thought he hit the deceased with the knobkerrie, but it was in fact a panga when he was defending himself from the deceased.
But Justice van Niekerk rejected all these claims by Nghidimbwa, adding that he was experiencing his own imaginations.
She concluded that Ngidimbwa had been motivated by his imagination that the deceased was having an affair with his wife and that he could not have mistaken a panga for a knobkerrie
After killing the deceased, Nghidimbwa is said to have dressed Johannes in clean clothes, poured water over his body and laid the body on a blanket, with a pillow under Johannes’ head. He also stood by the body waiting for the police to arrive at the scene. It took a day for the police to arrive.
Before sentencing him to 16 years of which four years were suspended, the judge took some matters into account, such as the accused’s age, the fact that he was a father of eight and the fact that he already spent four years in custody awaiting the finalisation of his case.
She said Nghidimbwa is no longer a young person at 63 years.
“You have murdered an innocent, peace-loving and helpful human being,” said the judge.
She also commended the fact that Nghindimbwa treated the deceased’s body with respect after having performed a ritual to protect himself against the consequences of his deeds.
“You protected the body on the scene until the police came late the following day. You have also cooperated with them by admitting that you killed Johannes and pointing out the panga and the bloody clothes,” she said.
She was of the opinion that Nghidimbwa’s beliefs were no excuse for the crime he committed.
“I think the court should have some understanding for the fallibility of human nature where powerful elements such as honour, jealousy and anger, especially in the context of suspected sexual infidelity, come into play,” said Justice van Niekerk.
She sentenced Nghidimbwa to 12 years’ imprisonment to prevent the accused from committing similar crimes in future. She said he committed the crime in a barbaric way, and that he created in his own mind that his wife slept with the deceased.