‘I’ve been to hell and back, and now I’m free’

Trau­ma­tised through a two-year trial, she plans to sue pros­e­cut­ing au­thor­ity

Daily Dispatch - - Front Page - Pic­ture: MICHAEL PINYANA

“I have been through hell and back, but now I am happy and sleep­ing peace­fully.”

This is how Bulelwa Ndudula de­scribed “the pass­ing of this dark chap­ter in my life” – the two years the East Lon­don pri­mary school teacher spent in in the dock com­bat­ing the ac­cu­sa­tion she shot her hus­band four times in cold blood.

She was found not guilty of mur­der­ing her hus­band Sakhek­ile Ndudula, who was so­cial devel­op­ment MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s chief of staff and an ANC Chris Hani re­gion leader.

Break­ing her si­lence af­ter East Lon­don high court judge Igna Stretch ac­quit­ted her, Bulelwa Ndudula said the ex­pe­ri­ence – both in the crim­i­nal court and in the court of pub­lic opin­ion – was trau­matic.

She is plan­ning to sue the state.

“This has been a very trau­matic and a shock­ing chap­ter in my life which will take time to over­come and heal from,” she said.

Sakhek­ile was killed in their Cam­bridge home on Septem­ber 14 2016.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with the Daily Dis­patch at her at­tor­ney Mike Maseti’s of­fice in EL this week, she told her story of how the trial pushed some of her friends away, but also how she made new ones.

While she had to en­dure evil stares and even ridicule in pub­lic, strangers also of­fered her their sup­port, love and en­cour­ag­ing words. But she stayed strong, as­crib­ing her re­silience to the sup­port she re­ceived from her fam­ily, friends and strangers.

Sup­port from her two re­main­ing chil­dren had been es­pe­cially pre­cious. Her and Sakhek­ile’s youngest child, a daugh­ter, drowned.

Ndudula was ar­rested on Septem­ber 30 2016, 16 days af­ter Sakhek­ile was fa­tally shot four times.

She spent two months in East Lon­don Prison af­ter she was de­nied bail by the lo­cal court, a de­ci­sion later over­turned on ap­peal by the Gra­ham­stown High Court.

Her trial com­menced in May.

On Mon­day she walked free, ac­quit­ted too of pos­sess­ing an il­le­gal firearm and am­mu­ni­tion.

Mrs Ndudula through­out her trial had looked stylish and flashed a few broad smiles at the cam­eras. This week she ad­mit­ted she was a “fash­ion­ista” who de­signed and wore her own out­fits to court.

How­ever, through­out the trial, she re­fused to talk to the me­dia, but this week said, in a qua­ver­ing voice: “I was hurt so much by the fact that I had to be in court, while I was sup­posed to be peace­fully mourn­ing the death of my hus­band,”

Upon her re­lease from prison on bail in De­cem­ber 2016, she had to at­tend psy­chother­apy coun­selling ses­sions “be­cause all this was was too much for me”.

She said some mem­bers of the pub­lic had al­ready found her guilty long be­fore the court made its judg­ment.

“I have been called names. Peo­ple talked be­hind my back, and even when I was walk­ing in malls and other pub­lic places, you will see the way peo­ple looked and laughed at me. Some would pass un­pleas­ant com­ments, with­out even know­ing the pain and hurt I was go­ing through.

“I told my­self that I should keep my smile, even though I was hurt­ing in­side, be­cause I knew I was in­no­cent. I tried to keep my head up and walk tall be­cause I knew that one day I would be cleared of all these dark clouds hov­er­ing over me.”

On the pos­i­tive side, strangers would call or stop her on the streets and of­fer her “en­cour­ag­ing words that made me strong un­til this day”.

She kept her chil­dren away from court. “I did not want to ex­pose them to all of this.”

At her school and church “peo­ple were di­vided, with some be­liev­ing that I killed my hus­band, while oth­ers knew that I was not ca­pa­ble of such”.

Ndudula took paid leave in Novem­ber 2017, and is set to go back to class on Novem­ber 1.

The Ndudu­las had a stormy re­la­tion­ship. The court heard the cou­ple were mar­ried in 1996, sep­a­rated in 2007, di­vorced in 2009 and re­mar­ried in 2012, a year af­ter their youngest daugh­ter drowned in a bath­tub.

She said the sad­dest events in her life hap­pened on Septem­ber 30. Her child died on that day in 2011 and she was ar­rested on the same day in 2017.

She said Oc­to­ber 8 was an­other un­for­get­table day. She buried her child on that day in 2011, and in a twist of fate, was ac­quit­ted on Oc­to­ber 8 this year.

The widow sang her hus­band’s praises, call­ing him “a car­ing and lov­ing father, who went out of his way to sup­port those in need”.

She re­peated her de­fence in court, that Sakhek­ile’s shoot­ing by hit­men was “100% po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. I am 100% cer­tain that his killing had ev­ery­thing to do with his po­lit­i­cal work.

“He told me and his bosses about death threats he was re­ceiv­ing from some of his com­rades just be­fore he died.”

Ndudula’s ev­i­dence was that Sakhekhile was once held hostage at the ANC re­gional of­fices in Ko­mani, had his car tyres slashed dur­ing a fac­tion fight there, and these at­tacks were re­ported to his su­pe­ri­ors in the ANC and the pro­vin­cial govern­ment.

“I be­lieve there is still more to this. I also be­lieve I was used as a scape­goat to cover up for the real killers, but I am a pray­ing woman and I know one day truth will pre­vail,” she said.

The trial had drained her fi­nan­cially. She sold “a lot of my valu­able items” to cover her le­gal bills.

It had made her happy in court when “the wrongs done by po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors and the pros­e­cut­ing team, were exposed”.

Maseti, said: “We will def­i­nitely sue them (the na­tional pros­e­cut­ing au­thor­ity) for this. They hu­mil­i­ated her through­out this process. It was thug­gery at its best and it can­not be just busi­ness as usual.”

Mrs Ndudula said she wanted to write a book about it all.

I was hurt so much by the fact that

I had to be in court, while I was sup­posed to be peace­fully mourn­ing the death of my hus­band

NATTILY DRESSED: Bulelwa Ndudula at­tended court in a va­ri­ety of dress styles.

Pic­tures: MICHAEL PINYANA, SIBONGILE NGALWA

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