Life plus 10 years in jail for gruesome ‘witchcraft murder’

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Matabeleland North correspondent

A man from Binga has been sentenced to life in jail for murder after he axed an 86-year-old neighbour to death accusing him of witchcraft.

Freeman Mahlabezulu Munkuli (32) of Saba area will also serve 10 years after he was found guilty of two counts of attempted murder on two villagers who he struck with an axe soon after killing Chilemba Mudenda in April last year.

Bulawayo High Court Judge, Thompson Mabhikwa, who was on circuit in Hwange last week, found Munkuli guilty of murder with actual intent.

The judge said Munkuli deserved to be permanently removed from the society.

He said the murder convict was lucky not to get the death sentence as the court had considered his belief that the deceased was a wizard.

Munkuli pretended to be mentally ill upon his arrest, claiming a strange spirit got into him and sent him to kill Mudenda.

A psychiatrist who examined him at Khami Maximum Prison’s Mlondolozi Unit certified him sane hence he went to trial.

During trial, Munkuli spoke disjointedly which the judge dismissed as an attempt to avoid trial.

Munkuli wanted to kill both Mudenda and his wife Stella Mudenda, aged 61 who fled and hid in the bush.

He then attacked Terezia Munkuli (41) by striking her with an axe once on the head and Sofia Siamuleba (53) whom he also struck on the head, chest and neck. He was accusing them of hiding the deceased’s wife at their homestead which is near the murder scene.

His lawyer Uukumetsi Matjaka Nare pleaded for the court’s mercy.

Prosecuting, Martha Cheda said the murder was premeditated.

“On the 8th of April 2018, the deceased and his wife were walking home from the fields along a small path when they met Munkuli who was carrying an axe. Munkuli accused the deceased of being a wizard and blocked his way. Sensing danger, Mudenda fled from the scene and hid behind some bushes about 20 metres away from where she watched her husband being axed,” said the prosecutor.

After axing Mudenda, Munkuli ran to a nearby homestead thinking that the deceased’s wife had fled there and when he failed to locate her, he attacked the two women.

Some villagers apprehended and disarmed Munkuli before handing him over to the police.