Bailed siblings want lives back after ‘wrongful’ imprisonment

Sthembiso Ndlovu says he and his sister Nokukhanya were wrongfully imprisoned. | SUPPLIED

Sthembiso Ndlovu says he and his sister Nokukhanya were wrongfully imprisoned. | SUPPLIED

Published Jul 7, 2024


Durban — A Christmas Day that was meant to be filled with laughter and cheer for the Ndlovu family turned out to be the beginning of years of torment and despair for siblings Sthembiso “Pro” and his sister, Nokukhanya.

The Ndlovu siblings, who hail from Sweetwaters, Pietermaritzburg, were sentenced to 18 years in prison in 2017 for a crime they say they did not commit.

Sthembiso Ndlovu said they played no part in the assault that led to the death of Lindokhule Zondi, an intruder who broke into his sister’s room at their home on December 25, 2016.

He said they were relaxing at home when the intruder stole a DVD player, money and food from his sister. A television set was left on the floor, ready to be stolen. Ndlovu said he chose not to follow up on the theft as the stolen items were replaceable. However, community members heard about what happened and tracked the suspect to his girlfriend’s house.

“When they found him, they beat him up and dragged him to my home for a further beating. I went to the crowd and warned them against what they were doing and I told them to leave our home immediately. They left the premises with the suspect. I wanted absolutely no part in it and I just walked back into the house,” he said.

Ndlovu said the suspect’s girlfriend returned the following morning with the police and implicated him in the “mob justice”.

He was then arrested, despite pleading his innocence.

“I was hopeful that the suspect would awaken and clear my name, but unfortunately he died in hospital,” he said.

Ndlovu said the court relied on evidence that was sketchy and did not prove their participation in the crime beyond reasonable doubt.

“My sister and I were driven by innocence. We did not really fully comprehend the magnitude of the accusations until an 18-year sentence was handed down to us,” he said.

The Ndlovus’ appeal at the Pietermaritzburg High Court was dismissed and they ended up spending seven years in jail. They were released on June 20 after the Supreme Court of Appeal agreed to hear their case. They are currently out on bail of R10 000 each.

Ndlovu said prison had taken a toll on his health. At the time of his arrest, he was pursuing his final year in electrical engineering at the Durban University of Technology. His comedy career was also booming and he was nominated for a Crown Gospel Award. During his time in Westville Prison, he obtained a National Diploma in Marketing Management.

Ndlovu said they had not spoken to the family of the deceased as they were forbidden from reaching out to them, but wished for an opportunity to give them his account of what transpired.

Nokukhanya said she was extremely happy to be released.

“I wish this matter can officially come to an end and be concluded once and for all. I really want my freedom back. I want to find employment and just continue with my life,” she said.

Sunday Tribune