Eastern Cape couple who hired hitmen to kill their domestic worker for a funeral policy payout, jailed for life

From left: Masixole Sokoyi, Sinethemba Pani, Sizwesethu Jonas, Zizipho Pani and Siyathemba James. Picture: NPA

From left: Masixole Sokoyi, Sinethemba Pani, Sizwesethu Jonas, Zizipho Pani and Siyathemba James. Picture: NPA

Published Jun 28, 2024


An Eastern Cape couple who hired three people to kill their domestic worker and her husband for an insurance payout have been sentenced to life imprisonment.

Shocking details of the brutal murder emerged in the Eastern Cape High Court, sitting in Nxuba (formerly Cradock).

The five accused are: Zizipho Pani, 34, her husband Siyathemba James, 39, hitman Sinethemba Pani, 34, Sizwesethu Jonas, 34, and 19-year-old Masixole Sokoyi.

National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said before the crimes were committed, the couple had employed the victim as their domestic helper.

She had been living in the same area in Nxuba.

“The mastermind, Zizipho Pani, acquired funeral policies on the life of the victim respectively with Standard Bank and Absa Bank in 2021.

“In the event of her death, the policy would pay out R200,000.”

The NPA said she solicited the help of a hitman for the murder at a cost of R50,000.

The victim lived with her boyfriend.

The court heard that on the night of October 10, 2022, the men went to the victim’s home.

“They knocked on the door and were permitted to enter as they were known to the victims.

“They then stabbed the couple with pangas and knives.

“Sokoyi raped the bleeding victim, and they left them, believing they are both dead.”

However, the victim managed to crawl to the neighbours and an ambulance was summoned.

“Her boyfriend was declared deceased on scene. She was able to tell who her attackers were.”

Soon after the incident, the accused went on the run, but were later found by community members and then arrested by police.

The NPA said one of their accomplices turned State witness and implicated the married couple.

“During the trial, all but one pleaded not guilty, necessitating that State advocate Sibusiso Mgenge lead the evidence of the victim, who had to relive her ordeal in court.

“The defence attempted to discredit her, as they portrayed her as a drunkard and drug addict, while putting the identities of attackers in dispute.”

The NPA said during sentencing, Judge Nozuko Mviko agreed with the State that insurance payout murders were becoming out of control in South Africa.

Judge Mviko said the courts had a duty to impose sentences that would deter other would-be perpetrators, until legislation preventing people from taking insurance cover against people without their express consent is enacted.

All four were sentenced to life imprisonment and 15 years for attempted murder, while Sokoyi was jailed to an effective 25 years.

IOL News