Thandi Maqubela might be free soon and ready to claim her late hus­band’s life in­sur­ance

Thandi Maqubela could soon be out on pa­role – and might be get­ting ready to fight for a share of her late hus­band’s es­tate


IT HAS all the juicy in­gre­di­ents of a Hol­ly­wood block­buster – sex, lies, in­fi­delity, greed, black­mail and a mur­der trial. The lead char­ac­ters – re­spected act­ing judge Patrick Maqubela and his high-fly­ing busi­ness­woman and so­cialite wife, Thandi – ap­peared to have it all. They had fab­u­lous houses in some of South Africa’s wealth­i­est ar­eas, packed wardrobes, gleam­ing cars and en­vi­able hol­i­days.

Then in 2009 the judge is found dead in his apart­ment in Cape Town’s swanky Bantry Bay and his es­tranged wife is the prime sus­pect.

The pros­e­cu­tion be­lieves the judge was suf­fo­cated to death and his es­tranged wife – dubbed the Black Widow by the lo­cal me­dia – is sen­tenced to 15 years in jail in 2015. Case closed, right? Fast-for­ward two years and Thandi Maqubela’s lawyers suc­ceed in get­ting the Supreme Court of Ap­peal (SCA) in Bloem­fontein to over­turn the mur­der sen­tence against their client.

Al­though the pros­e­cu­tion be­lieved the act­ing judge was suf­fo­cated, the cause of death was never con­clu­sively proven and on 29 Septem­ber the SCA ac­quit­ted Thandi (62) of mur­der. The court found he prob­a­bly died of nat­u­ral causes.

Now, with the mur­der charge off the ta­ble, a new bat­tle be­gins as the fam­ily scram­bles for the dead judge’s es­tate.

Dur­ing the mur­der trial – when Thandi made head­lines for ar­riv­ing at court in a non-stop pa­rade of swirling tur­bans and de­signer sun­glasses – it was re­vealed the act­ing judge died in­sol­vent due to his enor­mous debt.

But he had life in­sur­ance to the tune of R12 mil­lion. And with Thandi off the hook for mur­der, she could lay claim to a chunk of the in­sur­ance money.

Yet there’s a lit­tle snag . . . Thandi, who dur­ing her trial claimed her hus­band had reg­u­larly cheated on her, is cur­rently serv­ing a sen­tence for forgery and fraud. The court found she forged her hus­band’s will and she was sen­tenced to three years for two counts of forgery and fraud.

The former nurs­ing sis­ter’s le­gal team is now work­ing to­wards her re­lease from prison in Worces­ter in the West­ern Cape.

Thandi’s lawyer, Yolanda Slager, says her client al­ready served two years and five months and is el­i­gi­ble for pa­role.

“We’ve no­ti­fied the mas­ter of the high court of the SCA’s de­ci­sion to over­turn

the mur­der charge against our client,” Yolanda says.

And Thandi’s lawyers be­lieve she has a good chance to in­herit from the es­tate be­cause she has no blood on her hands.

DUMA Maqubela, Thandi’s step­son, is not con­vinced his fa­ther died of nat­u­ral causes, due to the bizarre cir­cum­stances around his dad’s death. Maqubela se­nior was found dead a day af­ter he ex­pressed his in­ten­tion to di­vorce his wife.

“The re­al­ity is that my fa­ther was found in bed with a suit on and a track­suit over that. Why did he have a pil­low over his face and a sheet over him? Why were the heaters on in the room? We know it was not nat­u­ral,” Duma says.

The pros­e­cu­tion main­tained that Patrick had been suf­fo­cated to death, pos­si­bly with a piece of cling­film that was left in a bin, and found to bear Thandi’s fin­ger­prints.

Duma ad­mits he’s never had a good re­la­tion­ship with his step­mom. How­ever, he tried to ex­tend an olive branch to his adult half-sis­ters, Skethucwak­a and Athenkosi, but they didn’t seem keen to em­brace him. Duma says he and his fam­ily aren’t go­ing to push the is­sue.

The sis­ters pub­lished a book, Mem­o­ries in Let­ters, a col­lec­tion of let­ters their fa­ther wrote to them when he was a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner on Robben Is­land.

The sis­ters have also been through a tough time. They lost their fa­ther and had their mother taken away from them when she was sent to jail. They also had to hear Judge John Mur­phy de­scribe their mother as a “men­da­cious wit­ness” who told no less than 40 lies, both in and out­side of court. Her be­hav­iour was read as “in­com­pat­i­ble with in­no­cence”.

But they must have found a new mea­sure of com­fort now that their mom has been ac­quit­ted of mur­der.

“My client is in­no­cent and she and her chil­dren suf­fered a lot dur­ing the trial,” Yolanda says.

“Those were sad times for her and her daugh­ters but now they will soon be re­united. The daugh­ters are ma­ture adults but they don’t want to talk to the me­dia. They want to con­tinue with their lives and are look­ing for­ward to the day their mother is re­leased on pa­role.”

Duma ad­mits he has to find some way of mak­ing peace with the de­ci­sion of the ap­peal court and is mak­ing a con­certed ef­fort to go on with his life.

“I’m not hurt­ing. This is some­thing I have no con­trol over. The de­ci­sion to over­turn my step­mother’s sen­tence is not some­thing I’m go­ing to fight be­cause it is a mat­ter be­tween the state and Thandi Maqubela.”

BUT with his step­mom’s pos­si­ble im­mi­nent re­lease from prison, Duma and his fam­ily are afraid she’ll once again try to sow di­vi­sion by in­ter­fer­ing with the wind­ing up of Patrick’s es­tate.

Thandi, ac­cord­ing to Duma, had al­ready ob­jected – through her lawyers – to the ex­e­cu­tion of the es­tate on the grounds that one of his fa­ther’s daugh­ters from an­other mar­riage was, ac­cord­ing to Thandi, not his daugh­ter.

An­other ma­jor con­cern is that Thandi’s in­clu­sion might fur­ther de­lay the wind­ing up of the es­tate. And with Thandi now pos­si­bly also claim­ing her share, the rest of the fam­ily might have to set­tle for a much smaller slice of the pie. But while Thandi’s lawyers are con­fi­dent their client has the right to claim from her de­ceased hus­band’s es­tate now that she has been ac­quit­ted of his mur­der, some le­gal ex­perts dis­agree with them. Nanika Prinsloo, a lawyer who spe­cialises in de­ceased es­tates and wills, says Thandi can’t stake her claim to her hus­band’s es­tate be­cause she com­mit­ted the crimes of fraud and forgery.

Af­ter her hus­band’s death, Thandi sub­mit­ted a will to the mas­ter of the high court in Jo­han­nes­burg, which listed her as the ben­e­fi­ciary and ex­ecu­tor of her hus­band’s es­tate.

This will she sub­mit­ted was found to be forged and it emerged Patrick died in­tes­tate. “She forged a will and tried to pass it off as au­then­tic,” Nanika says. “The high court found her guilty of this crime. There’s no way she can suc­ceed in in­her­it­ing from the es­tate, even if she goes to court.”

Linda Schoe­man-Malan, a pro­fes­sor of pri­vate law at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria, agrees. She says though the mur­der con­vic­tion was over­turned, Thandi stands no chance of stak­ing a claim from her de­ceased hus­band’s es­tate be­cause she was found guilty of forgery and fraud.

“Even if she was found not guilty on a tech­ni­cal point in the forgery and fraud cases, she could still be un­wor­thy to claim from the es­tate.

“If she has any claims against the es­tate and the ex­ecu­tor or mas­ter of the high court re­jects it, she’ll have to ap­proach the court again, but I doubt she will suc­ceed.”

By all ac­counts, it sounds like this par­tic­u­lar block­buster will have a rather riv­et­ing se­quel.

LEFT: Duma Maqubela is con­cerned his step­mother, Thandi Maqubela – whose sen­tence for the mur­der of his fa­ther Patrick has been over­turned – will in­ter­fere with the wind­ing up of his fa­ther’s es­tate.

ABOVE: A po­lice of­fi­cer hand­cuffs Thandi af­ter she was sen­tenced for the mur­der of her hus­band, judge Patrick Maqubela (RIGHT).

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