17 January 2018
After a long trial, Cato Manor police officer Phumlani Ndlovu was sentenced on Tuesday to ten years in prison for killing teenager Nqobile Nzuza in 2013. But for Nqobile’s mother, Cabangile Ngidi, it is not enough punishment for taking her daughter’s life.
The five-year trial came to an end at the Durban Magistrates’ Court yesterday when Magistrate Anand Maharaj sentenced Ndlovu.
Nzuzu died during a protest led by shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali Basemjondolo in Cato Ridge in September 2013. She was shot in the back while fleeing from the police. She was 17 years old.
“She died holding her best friend’s hand,” her mother told GroundUp. The two girls had been running and when Nqobile fell, her friend first thought she had tripped.
Interviewed after the sentencing, Ngidi described her daughter as the happiest member of the family, and the best singer, at home and in church.
“We miss her voice every Sunday when the choir sings at church. She used to be the lead singer and the whole church misses her voice. She wanted to make a living out of her singing talent and she began making plans just weeks before she was killed.”
New Year’s Day, Nqobile’s birthday, is a sad day for the family.
“I just looked at her picture and thought about her. It’s a big framed picture hanging in my family’s home back at KwaMaphumulo,” said Ngidi.
The family of now five said they weren’t satisfied with the sentence handed down to Ndlovu and were concerned that he might appeal. Maharaj granted leave to appeal but denied bail.
Ngidi said during the prolonged trial the family had decided that “justice is not rightly served when police are involved”. Ndlovu was found guilty of murder in July 2017 and released on R5,000 bail. He continued to work for SAPS in Cato Manor until the start of the sentencing process this week.
During sentencing Ndlovu was described by his pastor and his occupational counsellor as remorseful and undeserving of imprisonment. But when both were asked if Ndlovu had disclosed how Nqobile Nzuza was killed, both said they had heard it “for the first time in court.” Maharaj dismissed their testimony as biased.
The magistrate said he was sentencing Ndlovu to 10 years because this was his first offence on duty. His junior rank, and lack of experience had also been taken into account. Until that day he had never discharged a firearm.
But, Maharaj said, Ndlovu’s version of events was “misleading” and he showed “lack of remorse”.
“You gave me two versions, of warning shots fired into the ground and another of shots fired into the air. The probability is that you were shooting into the crowd and a young girl was killed,” said Maharaj.
Members of Abahlali Basemjondolo cheered when the sentence was announced.
But Abahlali leader Sibusiso Zikode said though the organisation welcomed the sentence, they felt it was too lenient.
“The sentence is not equal to his crime. The minimum he should have been given is 15 years,” said Zikode.
He said the police were politically motivated.
“Those police officers were intentionally sent to deal with us with live ammunition. Ethekwini municipality has a brutal relationship with Abahlali baseMjondolo, often responding with violence and brutality to barricades.”