Ntefeleng Lethetsa. Picture: Zodidi Dano/Cape Argus

Cape Town - In the wake of Women’s Month, during which the spotlight fell on the abuse of women and children, a Strand mother testified how abuse meted out by her husband drove her drove her to set their shack alight.

Ntefeleng Lethetsa, on trial for the murder of her three-week-old baby, broke down in the Western Cape High Court on Monday as she recounted the events that drove her to set her shack alight in April last year.

The baby died as a result of injuries sustained in the fire in which and she and her other child – a 1-year-old – were also seriously  injured.

Lethetsa, 36, also faces an attempted murder charge.

On the day of the incident she asked her husband to withdraw money to buy for nappies, but it turned into a fight about her not being being unable to satisfy his sexual appetite. 

“We had an argument, it led to a physical fight. We were hitting each other, but he was overpowering me. I called the police.” 

Neighbours intervened and her husband left – his parting words were that he would kill her in their home when he returned.

“He wanted to assault me again, I then ran into the house and locked the door. I locked myself in, poured paraffin inside the house behind the door. I struck the match twice and took my two children and went to sit with them on the bed. I was breastfeeding the youngest and the older one was standing next to me crying.”  

When her husband returned, their home was burning. She said he forced open a window at the back of their shack. He rescued the the 1-year-old before Lethetsa handed him the baby. He then helped her out of the flames. 

"A neighbour took me to her house and said I should hide from the angry community and when the police arrived, she came to fetch me. I asked where my children were, and she told me my baby had died," she sobbed.

Lethetsa, originally from Mount Fletcher in the Eastern Cape, arrived in Cape Town last year. She had followed her husband, upon whom she was dependent, to Cape Town. They were married for five years of five years.

Since the incident, they had another baby, who is now two months old.

She testified she did not know why she snapped and set the shack alight, but that she would rather die by her own hand than that of her husband’s.

Medical reports of incidents where her husband allegedly assaulted her were handed to the court.  

She also testified that her husband had locked her in a room and strangled her before she was rescued by his colleague. 

Lethetsa said she endured difficult conditions in the marriage, but loved her husband.

“I thought of killing myself and the children so that we could no longer be on earth,” she said. 

She ended her testimony by saying she “can’t live without him”.

Judge Mushtak Parker ordered that Lethetsa undergo an evaluation by a private clinical psychologist. The matter was postponed to October 22.

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Cape Argus