The gruesome murder of Busisiwe Ngwadla and the light sentence given to her killer has put the spotlight on the effectiveness of police in dealing with femicide and gender-based violence.
Ayanda Matika (52) was sentenced for the gruesome murder of his girlfriend, Busisiwe Ngwadla. In the view of family, friends and activists, Matika should have been given a heavier sentence than the 20 years handed down since this means he can apply for parole after serving more than just half of his time. The ANC’s Women’s League in East London and the victim’s family are not happy with Judge John Smith’s sentence, calling it lenient and a slap on the wrist.
Matika’s sentencing on Thursday followed the day of his conviction of the crime. In handing down sentence, Judge Smith did not mince his words: “The manner in which you have killed the deceased was brutal and inhuman… You showed no remorse. The voicenote messages you sent to your friend showed you were of the view that your actions were justified and that the deceased got what she deserved,” he said.
On 26 February 2019, Matika murdered Ngwadla at her place of residence at Emerald Sky flats in Amalinda, East London. The two were in a romantic relationship. An argument ensued between them and he stabbed her 12 times which resulted in her death. Neighbours heard her horrific screams which lasted for about five minutes. They went to check and knocked at her door. No one answered. They continued to bang the door until Matika opened the door and appearing calm, according to National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Anelisa Ngcakani, said “everything was now fine”. The neighbours then left. Matika “closed the door, changed into clean clothes, went to the airport to buy a ticket to Cape Town and fled” to his home in Gugulethu.
The neighbours were suspicious and notified security at the flats. On the same day, the police found Ngwadla’s naked body in a pool of blood. The forensic report revealed that she had tried to escape from the flat as there was blood everywhere on the walls and doors.
After Matika murdered Ngwadla, “he sent a voice note to a friend confessing to murdering her” because of her alleged infidelity. The voicenote circulated widely on social media. He was arrested three weeks later in a flat in Cape Town.
In his defence, Matika stated that he “acted on sane automatism” when he murdered Ngwadla. “This means that he was in such a fit of anger that he lost control and acted automatically without any deliberate conscious intention of stabbing her; in other words he blacked out and realised afterwards what he had done,” said Ngcakani.
His claims were however refuted in court. The acting Director of Public Prosecutions, Livingstone Sakata, after the sentencing said: “The NPA appreciates the integrated efforts by all stakeholders in the JCPS cluster to seriously address gender-based violence related crimes. The investigation and prosecution teams are highly commended for their dedication.” The case was prosecuted by senior state advocate Henke Ackermann.
Advocates for human, women and children rights, say there were still “too many rapes and femicides that are left unresolved with perpetrators getting away because of poor policing. Commenting hours after the sentencing, Dr Lesley Ann Foster, director for Masimanyane Women Rights International said: “We also battle with prosecutors and magistrates who are failing to comprehensively deal with cases of gender-based violence (GBV) in spite of the president’s commitment and his declaring GBV and femicide as a critical problem in the country.” Police are not equipped to deal with cases of femicide and domestic violence. “We continue to face huge challenges within the criminal justice system that impedes access to justice for victims,” she said.
ANC Women’s League executive member in the Dr WB Rubusana region, Princess Faku, said her organisation was not happy with Smith’s sentencing. “We believe he deserved to be sentenced to life imprisonment without the option of parole. We will sit down as a region and deliberate on what legal action we can take,” said Faku.
The deceased’s brother, Thabo Ngwadla, said his family were expecting a sentence of not less than a lifetime in jail.
“He did not show any remorse. He is now sorry all because he finds himself in a corner. He deserves to spend all of his remaining life in jail with no option of a parole. He took my sister away from her family. We will appeal the sentencing,” said Thabo Ngwadla.