A brave 11-year-old boy took the stand in the Pretoria High Court to testify in his father’s murder trial, telling the court how his mother was engulfed in flames after his father threw petrol on the floor of the main bedroom in their house.
The boy, who may not be named as he is a minor, on Tuesday explained how his injured mother called him and his younger sister into the bathroom, where she made them sit in a tub with water, until help arrived.
Nkele Gladys Mamabolo died a week later in hospital, after suffering 80 percent burn wounds.
Her husband, Godfrey Kgabane Mamabolo, pleaded not guilty to murdering her.
He also pleaded not guilty to two counts of attempted murder regarding the injuries his son and daughter suffered. He did not give an explanation of plea.
Both children were taken to hospital - the boy with burn wounds to his stomach and arm, and his sister suffering from smoke inhalation.
The 44-year-old Mamabolo, of Letlhabile in Brits, sat with his head bowed down while his son testified through an intermediary.
The court was told that the child asked not to face his father in court, as it would be too traumatic for him.Mamabolo supported this and said it would be better for his son to be spared the anguish of testifying in open court.
The child testified how he and his sister were asleep in their parents’ bedroom on the evening of February 18, last year. His sister woke him up and he saw his father in the room, with a can of petrol in his hand.
According to the child, his father poured this on the ground and the next moment he saw “his mother had caught fire.” Asked whether he ever saw his father striking a match, the child replied “no”.
His mother made them sit in the tub with water, while their domestic worker called members of the community. They broke open the bathroom window and rescued the children. The boy said he had no idea how his mother managed to get out of the bathroom.
The child also testified that after the bedroom caught alight, he never saw his father again.
It is claimed that the accused, on the day before the incident, threatened to kill his wife. Hours before their home was set alight, she obtained an interim protection order against him. This was served on him shortly before the incident.
The deceased’s brother, Ronny Masilo, testified that his sister had phoned him the previous day saying her husband had followed her to work, where he was “fighting” with her.
He said he received a telephone call the next night, to say his sister’s home was on fire. Most of the house had already burnt down by the time he got there. Masilo said his sister and the children were taken to hospital, but she died a week later, without ever regaining consciousness.
It was stated on behalf of Mamabolo that he went to his wife’s work that day to report her to her employer. According to her husband, she stole oxygen machines and medicine from her employer.
A policeman testified that, shortly after the house was set alight, he received a message that Mamabolo was hiding in a house about 10km away from his marital home. When he got there he found the accused lying under a tree. He had burn wounds on his hands and his legs. He was arrested and taken to hospital.
Mamabolo denied that he was hiding and claimed he had gone to the house to ask for water, when he passed out under the tree.