Cape Town - Western Cape High Court Judge Vincent Saldanha has highlighted the urgent need for police officers to protect victims of domestic violence.
On Thursday, he sentenced Bongani Dodo to 15 years behind bars for murdering his 29-year-old wife, and mother of their two children, in 2013.
Saldanha said Zuziwe Gobelo had been “another victim of the failure of some members of the police to properly respond to the complaints of victims of domestic violence”.
On December 15, 2013, Gobelo spent the night at her mother's house. Dodo broke in, beat and stabbed Gobelo, leaving her seriously injured and in need of hospitalisation.
Her sister, Bukiwe Matambeka, went to Fish Hoek police station to report the matter. When Matambeka returned to her mother's house, she found Dodo standing over Gobelo.
She was covered with blood, her face swollen and her lip split. Dodo then left, and Gobelo was taken to hospital. Later that night, Dodo returned and threatened Matambeka, while he also took two cellphones and threw them into a nearby drain.
The next day, December 16, Gobelo opened a criminal case against her husband at Ocean View police station. Police accompanied her to arrest him, but they could not find him, and Gobelo never heard from the police again. On December 27, Gobelo was preparing to leave home for her work at a top restaurant in Kalk Bay at about 7.15am.
Her husband arrived and asked for money. He noticed a pair of pants on the bed and demanded to know who they belonged to. Gobelo told him they were hers and a tussle over the clothing ensued. It was then that Dodo pulled out a knife and stabbed Gobelo repeatedly.
Gobelo's sister entered the room and witnessed the murder. The victim's brother also saw what was happening and shouted at Dodo to stop. Dodo then stabbed himself in the chest creating superficial wounds as a “ruse” for his claims that he had acted in self-defence. He was arrested at the False Bay hospital covered in blood.
By the time police arrived at the crime scene, Gobelo was dead.
Judge Saldanha said three police officers who were involved in the initial assault case were called to testify: “From their testimony, in my view, their failure to trace the suspect was a result of the less than desirable attention given to the investigation”.
He said there were “ever increasing numbers of women dying at the hands of their partners” and urgent attention needed to be given to tracing suspects.
The judge said there was also a need for statistics on domestic violence, particularly as government had deemed it a scourge increasing in prevalence across the country. Saldanha said the victim and accused's two children, aged 10 and 11, had been traumatised by the loss of their mother at the hands of their own father.
Their aunt had testified that the 11-year-old child had expressed her sadness in letters and wrote that she was “hurting inside” because of her mother's death. The children are in the care of their maternal grandmother in the Eastern Cape.
The grandmother asked the court to impose correctional supervision so that Dodo could financially contribute to the welfare of his children, but the judge said a term of direct imprisonment was an appropriate sentence as a message needed to be sent to society that “intimate partner violence” would not be tolerated.
“He repeatedly stabbed the deceased, in her upper body and jaw, piercing her jugular vein and her heart. He then calmly knelt down and inflicted superficial wounds to his chest”.
The judge described Dodo as “calculating and cunning” and said he had “stubbornly denied any responsibility and in fact blamed the deceased for his conduct”.
Dodo was sentenced to 15 years for murder, as prescribed by minimum sentencing legislation. He received 18 months for malicious damage to property and the sentences were ordered to run concurrently.
During sentencing, Dodo shook his head and occasionally glared at the media.