Omar and Zahida Sabadia

Pretoria - Wife killer Omar Sabadia is due to be released on parole on June 20 after spending about 20 years in jail of his effective 50-year jail term.

However, his three children, who were still small when their mother was killed, are totally opposed to his release. “We were mere children when our mother Zahida was killed in 1996.

“It was very difficult for us growing up without a mother. We have finally started living our lives. We are simply not prepared for his release,” Khatija Ahmed told the Pretoria News.

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She was only 4 years old when her mother was killed. Her sister Anjum Moosa was 9 and their brother Parvez Ahmed was 6.

Sabadia made headlines when he was arrested for the killing of his beautiful wife, who was a medical student at the time.

Zahida went missing in February 1996. Her body was found 22 days later tied to a tree in Ga-Rankuwa. Her husband led a team of detectives to the spot where she was killed after he had made a confession.

She had been strangled not far from where she and her husband were “hijacked” after buying food at a fast food outlet.

It emerged that Sabadia, a well-known psychiatrist at the time, had hired three hitmen to murder his wife. He was sentenced to 50 years' imprisonment. His three hitmen also received harsh prison sentences - Albert Moeketsane got 40 years; Richard Malema got 25; and Patrick Manyape received 25, reduced to 15 on appeal.

Sabadia feels he is now entitled to his freedom as he had paid his dues. But the words of the judge who sentenced him in 1998 came back to haunt him; it was recommended by the judge that Sabadia serve at least 35 years of his sentence before parole was considered.

Sabadia turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in March for an urgent order that the Parole Board convene to consider his parole. The board had denied him parole on at least two occasions. The court ordered that the board had to reconsider his parole within 30 days. It then decided he had to be released on June 20.

But his three children, who attended previous parole hearings and opposed his release, are now extremely upset that they were not informed of the latest parole hearing and given a chance to voice their objections to his release.

Their lawyer, Ahmed Suliman, wrote to the commissioner of the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional Centre where Sabadia is being held to object to the parole, which was granted without first hearing the children's views.

He said that in terms of the law they had a right to be heard as they were directly affected by the decision, and that it was irregular to grant parole without their input.

Suliman asked that the matter be referred to the Parole Review Board for reconsideration, failing which he would consider turning to the court for assistance.

Khatidja told the Pretoria News the reason she was opposed to parole of her father was that this would send the wrong message to the many others guilty of femicide. “I am a big believer in the criminal justice system. His release will send out the wrong message. He only sat for 20 years and that it not long enough.

“We have just started our lives. We saw him for the first time since our mother was killed during the parole hearing.

“He did not even apologise; instead we received an ice-cold look.”

Anjum said she was the one who said they wanted to see their father at the time. “I on impulse decided I wanted to see him. He walked into the room and looked straight ahead. He did not even make eye contact. If they were my children, I would have been on my knees asking forgiveness.

“I had a lot of anger, but it was almost as if he had become the victim. He simply looked away. As much as my mother was the victim, we, the children, were also victims. How do you do something like this to your children?”

Anjum said there was also an element of fear for the children if he was released. “ We made progress in life. We don’t want to regress.”

Katidja said rehabilitation was all about acknowledging one’s mistakes and apologising. She said she received a message a few years ago from someone who visited her father in jail and in a letter to her blamed the killing on him being bipolar. “He is shifting the blame and not facing what he did. I feel he is not ready to come out. Nor are we ready.”

Pretoria News