Thabang Leonard Moqhobai. Picture: Danie van der Lith
Thabang Leonard Moqhobai. Picture: Danie van der Lith

Court hears suspect butchered his ex with the same knife he used to slaughter cows at funerals

By Sandi Kwon Hoo Time of article published Mar 13, 2021

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Durban - Thabang Leonard Moqhobai, who was found guilty of stabbing his ex-girlfriend six times and leaving her to die in the streets of Ritchie, will be sentenced in the Northern Cape High Court next week.

On the day she was murdered the accused had confronted the deceased Elsie “Mase” Chabalala in Ritchie on October 13 2019, about her new boyfriend.

Petronella Jacobs told the court on Friday, that her 76-year-old grandmother’s health had deteriorated following Chabalala’s death. The grandmother has also had two strokes as a result of this.

“After the murder she changed.”

She was not convinced that the accused was genuinely remorseful for his actions

“Although he apologised, we cannot forgive him for taking away someone whom we loved very much. We are torn, especially my grandmother who continues to suffer.”

State advocate Anel Stellenberg pointed out that the minimum prescribed sentence for premeditated murder was life imprisonment.

“It is unthinkable that a person who claims to have loved and wanted to marry her, would end her life in this violent and gruesome manner. She was butchered to death in broad daylight.”

She added that according to the post mortem report, Chabalala sustained six stab wounds.

“The knife that the accused used to commit the murder, was the same knife that he used to slaughter cows at funerals. The pathologist testified that one of her arteries were severed in her neck while another stab wound penetrated the upper part of her chest and lacerated her lungs.

“One of the witnesses testified that she appeared to be pleading for her life where she clasped her hands together and tried to ward off her attacker, while she was sitting on the ground. The accused took both her hands and continued stabbing her.”

Stellenberg believed that the deceased did not believe that the accused was capable of carrying out his threats.

“She died in the most unnatural manner. Upon his version he was in love with her.”

Stellenberg added that the accused had ample time to reconsider his actions.

“After threatening to kill her, he went home and lay on the bed where he thought about everything. He proceeded to take the biggest knife he could find and brazenly butchered the deceased, not caring who was looking on.”

She stated that a witness had testified that a child who was nearby saw the murder unfolding before his eyes and was screaming.

“The court must impose a heavy sentence to send an appropriate message to the community and to deter others from committing crimes of this nature.”

She pointed out that the accused displayed no emotion after the murder.

"He used a huge butcher knife to kill the deceased and testified that he was 'disappointed that he had messed up his life'. It is clear that the accused shows no remorse and only feels sorry for himself."

Stellenberg added that the accused failed to take the court into his confidence.

"He only told the court that he had gone to confront the deceased's new boyfriend. The accused did not help the court to understand what led him to that point. He never disclosed what transpired between him and the deceased before she was murdered. He threatened to kill her several times on the day of the incident and proceeded to carry out his threats.

"This horrific act not only robbed her family of a loved one but also brought them into financial hardship."

She believed that the accused's 61-year-old mother could not have been left destitute since his incarceration, as the accused’s brother was a truck driver who stayed in Jacobsdal, where his mother resided.

"His one brother started a church and pastors earn an income from the church. Truck drivers also earn a decent salary and it is clear that at least one of her sons would be able to support her financially."

She added the family of the deceased were left in a similar predicament.

"The deceased was supporting her grandmother financially. Her grandmother is still crying and grieving her death to a point that it disturbs her family. The community is looking to the court to bring justice for her death."

Legal representative for the accused Advocate Japie Schreuder stated that his client should be considered as a first offender.

"He was given a suspended sentence for assault 13 years ago, that does not seem to be very serious."

He indicated that while the scourge of gender-based violence was a reality, he believed that every case had to be judged on its own merits.

"In this situation the accused was highly emotional. While he had a new girlfriend he learnt that his ex-girlfriend (the deceased) had started a new relationship. This was not a matter of a woman being exploited - this was something else - where a relationship was at stake. "

Schreuder pointed out that his client was a productive member of society who did not pose any danger to the community in general.

“He tried to earn a living and see to the financial needs of his mother, his girlfriend and ensured that their small child was well taken care of.

“The accused wanted to extend his apologies in person but was prevented from doing so due to his bail conditions.

“While the family of the deceased is not convinced of his remorse, according to his testimony, he did apologise to the family for what happened. He conveyed that while he could not rectify the crime, he accepted responsibility for his actions. He only disputes that the murder was premediated.”

Schreuder proposed that a sentence of 16 years imprisonment would be suitable.

“It would not shock the community into believing that the court was too lenient while it is not so harsh that it would destroy the accused. It will provide him with an opportunity to rehabilitate and return to the community as a better person.

“There is no reason as to why he should be declared unfit to possess a firearm.”

Northern Cape High Court Judge Lawrence Lever pointed out that the accused had not fled the scene after the murder or tried to conceal the body.

He will hand down sentence on March 16.

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