Stepmom cleared, but judge’s son has doubts
Appeal court scraps murder verdict against ‘black widow’
Acting judge Patrick Maqubela’s son still believes his father was murdered, despite an appeal court ruling this week that cleared his stepmother of the crime.
In 2015, the High Court in Cape Town convicted the judge’s estranged wife, Thandi, of murder and jailed her for 15 years.
But on Friday the Supreme Court of Appeal overturned her conviction, finding that Maqubela might have died of natural causes instead of being suffocated by cling wrap.
Maqubela’s son from a previous marriage, Duma, was devastated by the court’s decision. “It doesn’t change the fact that my old man is no longer here, but he woke up alive that morning,” he said.
“He didn’t suddenly suffer a heart attack and die and wrap himself in a bed sheet, cover his face with a pillow and wear a tracksuit on top of a suit. Someone did that. But if the law ignores all of that, it just proves that we have challenges.
“We want the law to protect us at all times, but it works within its own confines. We have to accept the outcomes even if we don’t like them. It has to be fair at all times.”
Maqubela was found dead in his flat in Sea Point‚ Cape Town, in June 2009.
In a judgment written by Judge Kevin Swain on behalf of a full bench of five judges, the SCA said: “In light of the evidence that he [Maqubela] probably died of natural causes, an inference of an unlawful killing cannot reasonably be drawn.
“Accordingly, the trial court incorrectly relied upon the evidence of guilty conduct on the part of [Thandi], without more, to prove [her] guilt.”
Thandi, now 62, who was dubbed the “black widow” during her trial, was also convicted of fraud and of forging Maqubela’s signature on a will that declared her the sole beneficiary of his estate.
In the high court trial, Judge John Murphy said Thandi had been driven by greed and she stood to gain R4.1-million from her husband’s estate.
Thandi must still serve her sentences for forgery and fraud‚ the SCA ruled.
Maqubela, a former anti-apartheid stalwart, was incarcerated with Nelson Mandela at Pollsmoor prison in Cape Town.
Duma said it was unfortunate that the manner of his father’s death had overshadowed his achievements. “The people of Qumbu, who were beneficiaries of his efforts to uplift them, know him very well.”
Thandi’s lawyer could not be reached for comment.
Acting judge Patrick Maqubela