Fana Nkwanyana, who had disappeared for seven years after the killing, gave himself up to the police as he could not longer live with his guilty conscience.
“I am very sorry about what I had done. I lost a partner, a lover and a friend,” the 59-year-old told the North Gauteng High Court. He pleaded guilty to beating Sibongile Phala to death on December 17, 2011.
He explained that they had an argument that night at home about her drinking problem. “I assaulted her with my fists and banged her head against the wall. We afterwards talked and I asked her for forgiveness.
“We went to sleep, but when I tried to wake her up the next morning, she did not move. I then realised that she was dead. I got scared and ran away. This incident haunted me until I got a lawyer and handed myself over to the police.”
The children of the woman discovered her lifeless body in her bed. She died of a head injury. Pictures handed to court depicted severe head and facial injuries.
Nkwanyana meanwhile said this incident had haunted him “day and night” during the seven years when he was on the run from the police.
"I know that I deserve punishment for what I did. I still have to explain to her children and family one day about what I did to her. This thought is even more haunting. I regret my actions and I am truly sorry for what I had done.”
While Nkwanyana asked the court to have mercy on him, Judge AJ Mncube said it was a brutal attack on a defenceless woman.
She said femicide in the country had reached pandemic proportions. She said South Africa was a country with one of the highest incidences of violence by men against women.