Cape Town - Thandi Maqubela, accused of murdering her husband, Acting Judge Patrick Maqubela, stood in the witness box of the Western Cape High Court on Tuesday and calmly told Judge John Murphy: “I loved my husband.”
She also revealed to the court for the first time that her husband had been bipolar, and that she went to great lengths to help him cope with the condition.
Thandi Maqubela and co-accused Vela Mabena have pleaded not guilty to a charge of murder.
Maqubela has also pleaded not guilty to fraud and forgery charges stemming from allegations that she forged her husband’s signature on a will, and for presenting it at the office of the master of the Johannesburg High Court, a department that deals with deceased and insolvent estates.
Clad in a sleek black top and wearing one of her signature turbans, she remained composed as she faced Judge Murphy and denied all charges against her.
Marius Broeksma, for Maqubela, cut straight to the chase, asking her: “Did you murder your late husband?”
“No, I did not,” she replied.
She also denied forging her late husband’s signature.
Prosecutors Bonnie Currie-Gamwo and Pedro van Wyk have led evidence to say that the acting judge was killed in his Bantry Bay flat on June 5, 2009; suffocated with cling wrap. He was found two days later under a sheet with a bloodstained pillow over his mouth. Last month, after presenting the evidence of 52 witnesses, the State closed its case.
On Tueday, Maqubela told the court how Patrick Maqubela had been in prison prior to their 1991 marriage for apartheid legislation offences. For six months after he was released, he was unemployed. Both had one child from before their marriage, but she discovered on the day of his funeral that he had in fact had two. The pair had three children together.
She also told the court about their business activities, his various jobs, and her discovery that he was having extramarital affairs.
Broeksma asked Maqubela to explain why her husband attended the Morningside Mediclinic in Joburg.
She replied: “Mainly for minor ailments, but most of the time he used to see a physician at Morningside because he was diagnosed with bipolar.”
The doctor who treated him had since died. Her husband had also attended a Family Life Centre where he took part in “sessions for his condition”.
Broeksma said that the Mediclinic had refused to release certain documents, and that the acting judge’s records had been destroyed.
Maqubela said she had been part of his treatment for his bipolar condition as his partner.
She was also given two books to read – one titled Loving a Bipolar and another book about living with bipolar.
Broeksma asked: “Why did you go to all effort?”
“I loved my husband. I knew I was the only one he depended on. He did not have a supportive family.”
She testified that she had to monitor her husband’s spending, bank accounts and cellphone records after she found he had spent R40 000 on a suit and more than R110 000 on clothing.
This was typical of bipolar patients, she said.
It was also the reason she approached Justice Minister Jeff Radebe – not because she did not want her husband to be a judge, but because she wanted the minister’s help.
Earlier, Radebe testified that Maqubela had complained to him about her husband’s extramarital affairs, claiming he was a sex addict.
On Tuesday, Maqubela said her husband knew about her meeting with Radebe.
The acting judge had held many jobs, she told the court, including a top post with SA Airways. He had also been a legal advisor in the office of the Eastern Cape premier, and had been involved with a Joburg legal firm Daly and Associates.
Things went wrong at Daly and Associates when Maqubela appeared to have lost interest in his legal work. For seven months he did not report to the office.
His wife told the court she became aware of her husband’s affairs when one of the law firm partners told her he had been seen with other women in shopping malls.
Broeksma read SMS messages in which the law firm partner urged Patrick Maqubela to decide whether or not he wanted to stay with the firm.
Maqubela said after talking to the partner, she started monitoring her husband.
“People said they saw him in malls with girls. I did not see him with girls but I checked cellphones and saw communication he had with girls.”
She admitted she had confronted some of the “girls”.
The first worked at a major cellphone firm.
“I sat down with her and told her ‘I am Mrs Maqubela’.” She told the woman she was “aware of what was happening”.
The woman then “admitted it” and soon after resigned from the cellphone firm.
Maqubela said she confronted the woman because she wanted to confirm what the partner had told her, and also to know her husband better and understand his personality.
She did not consider divorce at the time, but continued her research “to find out what was wrong with my husband”.
Another of her husband’s “girls” was in Bloemfontein, and she told him she was going there to confront her. She met the woman’s family, who apologised to Thandi Maqubela and returned the cellphone Patrick Maqubela had apparently given her.
Maqubela was “surprised” when she read SMS messages her husband had apparently sent to the woman.
Maqubela told the court she had met co-accused Vela Mabena at a business presentation for Forever Living products. At the time of her husband’s death, Maqubela, an established businesswoman, had been involved with Forever Living products for about 15 years.
She said that she was an independent distributor and that she was the company’s first manager in the Western Cape. At the time of her husband’s death, Maqubela had been earning R62 000 a month.
The trial continues on Wednesday.