Johannesburg - After serving less than half his sentence for kidnapping and killing his young wife, convicted murderer Omar Sabadia is now a free man.
The Department of Correctional Services confirmed this week that the former Johannesburg psychiatrist has been released from prison on parole after serving just 21 years of his 50-year sentence at the Kgosi Mampuru II Correctional facility in Pretoria.
“Mr Sabadia is now a parolee,” said department spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.
“He was placed on parole on May 5, 2019, by the Correctional Supervision and Parole Board, having met the requirements of parole placement.”
In 1996, Sabadia made headlines when he was arrested for hiring three hitmen - Albert Moeketsane, Richard Malema and Patrick Manyape - to kidnap and murder his wife, Zahida, the mother of his three small children, so that he could collect R2.9 million in insurance.
Zahida, a medical student, went missing in February 1996. Her decomposing body was found 22 days later, tied to a tree in Ga-Rankuwa, close to Pretoria.
She had been strangled not far from where she and her husband were “hijacked” after buying food at a fast food outlet.
Her husband led a team of detectives to the spot where she was killed after he confessed to the murder.
In 1998, Sabadia was sentenced to 50 years’ effective imprisonment for the “brutal, cruel and inhumane” murder, while Moeketsane was sentenced to 40 years and Malema and Manyape to 25 years’ imprisonment each.
Despite pressure from Zahida’s three children to keep their mother’s murderer behind bars, as well as the judges insistence that he would serve a minimum of 35 years before parole could be considered, Sabadia is now a free man.
Two of the hitmen, Malema and Manyape, have also been released on parole, in 2009 and 2007 respectively, while Moeketsane is set to be released on parole this year.
It is believed that Sabadia is now staying with family in Tzaneen in Limpopo. Correctional Services was unable to provide details on his parole conditions.
“Parole conditions are between the parolee and the department which has to monitor him until the expiry of the sentence and cannot be disclosed in public,” said Nxumalo.
“He served the minimum required time, which is half of the sentence that was issued by the court.”
However, some of Sabadia’s parole conditions leaked online in November last year, indicated that he must attend an intensive substance abuse programme with a psychologist, as well as be part of a reintegration plan.
The Saturday Star’s attempts to get hold of Zahida’s children, Khatija, Anjum, and Parwez, were unsuccessful this week, while the family’s lawyer, Ahmed Suliman, said he had not spoken to the family after Sabadia’s release and was not in a position to comment.
In June last year, the controversial decision by the parole board to release Sabadia was reviewed.
When the Saturday Star spoke to Zahida’s father, Omar Ahmed, at the time, he pleaded for his daughter’s killer to remain behind bars for good.
“Omar Sabadia cannot be let out of jail. He is a danger to society. I hope he rots in jail,” Ahmed said at the time.
Ahmed, a former Limpopo ANC legislator, said he had never been able to recover from the loss of his daughter.
“What kind of man betrays his kids?” he asked.
“He doesn’t deserve to be let out of jail even a day before his sentence is complete. He needs to serve his time.”
Ahmed recalled how he had been in “complete shock” when he found out that his daughter’s husband was the mastermind behind the murder.
“As far as I knew, their age difference seemed fine. Zahida was focused on her studies and there didn’t seem to be any problems,” said Ahmed.
“Only afterwards did I find out that Omar Sabadia was a gambling addict, a very deceptive man who was violent, a man who used to abuse his patients, and a man who was hooked on antidepressant drugs.”
Sabadia’s release comes at a time where there has been an increase in gender-based violence in South Africa.
The #TotalShutDown movement embarked on protests across the country demanding an end to violence against women, while the recent murder of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana sparked the rise of the #AmINext movement.
The movement gave a platform for South Africans to speak out about the injustices against women in the country.