Thandi Maqubela was convicted of murdering her husband, acting judge Patrick Maqubela. File picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - Convicted killer Thandi Maqubela will be sent for mental observation to determine whether she is able to understand sentencing proceedings, the Western Cape High Court ruled on Thursday.

Cape Town district surgeon Marianne Tiemensma recommended in a report that Maqubela be referred for observation.

Judge John Murphy said the matter would be postponed until November 6 to allow for observation, which would take place as soon as a bed became available at Valkenberg Hospital.

She would remain in custody at Pollsmoor Prison in the meantime.

Murphy asked Maqubela whether she understood what had been read out in court.

Maqubela, dressed smartly in a black skirt suit and blue turban, was unresponsive and stared at the floor.

In November, the same court found Maqubela guilty of killing her acting judge husband Patrick Maqubela in June 2009, despite not having conclusive medical evidence pinpointing a cause of death.

She was found guilty of forging her husband's will and committing fraud by causing potential prejudice to his estate.

She was to have appeared in court again on September 29, likely conducting her own defence in mitigation of sentence after failing to elect a legal aid lawyer.

Tiemensma was asked to evaluate Maqubela's mental state for the purposes of finalising her sentencing. Her mental state during the criminal act and subsequent trial were not under evaluation.

The State handed up Tiemensma's report, which revealed that Maqubela initially refused to answer any questions and avoided all eye contact.

After persistent questioning, Maqubela repeatedly asked whether Tiemensma might help her to get to her husband's office at court.

“It was very difficult to conduct the interview and to form a definite opinion on her mental state and I am not fully convinced at this stage that she is psychotic,” the doctor noted.

The doctor said Maqubela appeared to be in a distressed state and uncommunicative for reasons not immediately clear.

“I got the impression that she is somewhat stubborn and purposefully answers in an inappropriate manner. However, I recommend she be referred for observation at a psychiatric institution.”

Murphy had sent her to hospital on Wednesday morning after noticing that she did not appear “to be well” during pre-sentencing proceedings.

Murphy said on Thursday that the Criminal Procedure Act required that there be some factual or medical basis before sending someone for observation.

“The court should always keep in mind that the accused is malingering or falsely presenting their condition,” he said.

“If it appears there is a reasonable possibility 1/8of mental illness or defect 3/8, the court is then obliged to direct that the matter be inquired into.”