Durban - Men who viewed women as their property needed to understand they could never own them, a high court judge said in Pietermaritzburg as he sentenced a man to life imprisonment for murdering his lover.

Semi-professional footballer Sibongiseni Mbhele, 26, who played for the Amazulu FC reserve team, murdered 43-year-old Phumzile Mkhize after she ended their affair.

Jailing Mbhele in a month in which the rights of women are celebrated, Judge Anton van Zyl said it was important to acknowledge that we were living in an era where women’s rights needed to be exercised and enforced.

“A woman is entitled to make life choices without fear of intimidation or violence. The woman in this case lost her life because she chose to end a relationship, and she was killed by her former lover in a fit of rage… in a crime of passion.

“The accused objectified her and viewed her as property he could do with as he pleased. If he could not have her, no one else could. Affection is earned. It is not adduced through compulsion.

“The accused and people of his ilk need to understand that they do not and can never own a female companion,” the judge said.

Mbhele pleaded guilty on Wednesday to killing his lover. He said if he could not have her, no one else could.

Mkhize worked as a business information officer at a development agency in Durban. She was strangled with shoelaces and bludgeoned with a four-pound hammer on the night of June 6 in Folweni.

Post-mortem reports indicated that she suffered massive head trauma, a fractured skull and multiple facial fractures.

Mbhele showed little emotion as he was led down to the court cells after being told his fate.

He and Mkhize were involved in relationships with other people at the time they met via social media two years ago. They soon began an affair. Mbhele was living with a girlfriend while Mkhize had a common-law-husband.

Mbhele said a month before the murder, he and Mkhize experienced problems in their relationship.

On the day before her death, Mkhize had telephoned him, wanting to end the affair and reconcile with the father of her children.

“I loved her desperately and I was devastated by her intention to end our affair. I begged her not to leave me, but to no avail,” he said.

“The next day, still upset by her decision, I decided to kill her if I couldn’t have her.”

Mbhele said he concealed a four-pound hammer in his bag and went to see Mkhize at her workplace.

After meeting her, Mkhize drove Mbhele in her Polo Vivo to a friend’s house in Folweni, where the couple would regularly have their trysts.

“I asked her to go with me into the house because I wanted to seduce her and convince her not to leave me. I hoped that she would accede to my request so that I would not have to kill her,” Mbhele said.

But Mkhize refused to go into the house with him although she apparently agreed to drive to Folweni Stadium, known as “lovers lane”.

When the couple arrived at the stadium, Mbhele moved to the back seat and asked Mkhize to join him so that they could kiss.

She refused and continued to resist Mbhele’s overtures, after which he removed one of his shoelaces and looped it around her neck.

“I forcibly yanked her into the back seat with the shoelace. I continued to struggle with her until she stopped moving.

“I thought she was dead and agonised over what I had done,” he said.

“A short while later she revived and I became afraid she would report me to the police.”

Afraid of going to prison, Mbhele said he removed the hammer from his bag and struck Mkhize three times over the head until he was sure she was dead.

He then drove to his home in Sweetwaters, Pietermaritzburg, where he buried her in a shallow grave in his back garden

He left Mkhize’s car and personal belongings with friends in Pietermaritzburg.

Mbhele said he returned to Durban, where he lived with his girlfriend, and continued to live normally until he heard that the police had discovered Mkhize’s car and were looking for him.

He eventually confessed his crime to one of his friends, and turned himself over to police on June 14.

Daily News