As the world commemorated World Suicide Prevention Day on Monday, Ntefeleng Lethetsa testified that she was breastfeeding Relebohlile in April last year when she doused their shack in paraffin and struck a match.
The infant died. The 2-year-old locked in the room with her managed to survive after Lethetsa’s husband, Lehlohonolo Lebelo, broke a window and saved her and Lethetsa.
It was her plan to kill her children as well, Lethetsa said. She faces a charge of murder, and two of attempted murder.
The second charge of attempted murder is for Lethetsa’s landlady. Lethetsa had previously refused to testify in court, but in an application on Monday, she changed her mind and took the stand.
An emotional Lethetsa detailed how she allegedly regularly had to ask Lebelo for grant money to feed their children and buy nappies.
He would often have already spent the money on alcohol, she said.
In December 2014, she reported Lebelo to the police because the children were hungry and he had used the money they had on alcohol.
The couple’s fights would often turn physical, and Lethetsa said she had to seek medical attention twice, once on the instruction of a detective. She does not have a job and was reliant on her husband.
On the night of the incident, Lethetsa said she had asked Lebelo for money for nappies. When he refused, she said they again had a physical altercation and she called the police.
Lethetsa testified that while waiting for them, Lebelo said he would kill her, and that was when she locked herself in the shack.
“I was living under difficult conditions and being assaulted. I said I would rather kill myself than have him kill me. We were living under difficult conditions,” Lethetsa said.
Asked by Judge Mushtak Parker as to what the reason was behind her decision to take her and her children’s lives, Lethetsa said whenever she wanted something, her husband would ask for sex.
“I thought of killing myself and the children. Whenever I asked for something, I was asked for sex,” she said.
After Lethetsa was pulled out of the flames by Lebelo, she said a neighbour had hidden her from residents and told her she should stay there until police arrived.
“She thought the residents would attack me. When the police arrived, she took me to them,” Lethetsa said.
Judge Parker instructed the investigating officer to take Lethetsa to a private clinical psychologist.
The case has been postponed to next month. Lethetsa is out on bail.
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