Step­mom cleared, but judge’s son has doubts

Ap­peal court scraps murder ver­dict against ‘black wi­dow’

Sunday Times - - NEWS | CRIME - By PHILANI NOMBEMBE

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

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