By Leonard Ncube
A Binga man who went berserk and fatally struck an 86-year-old neighbour with an axe before attacking two female villagers with the same weapon has been sentenced to life in prison.
Freeman Mahlabezulu Munkuli (32) of Saba area accused the now deceased Chilemba Mudenda and his wife Mrs Stella Mudenda (61) of bewitching him.He also attacked Ms Terezia Munkuli (41) and Ms Sofia Siamuleba (53) accusing them of hiding Ms Mudenda who had fled from the murder scene after Munkuli attacked her husband.
Mrs Mudenda hid behind some bushes a few metres away from the murder scene when Munkuli axed her husband once on the neck and his head was almost cut off from the neck. Munkuli was charged with a count of murder and two counts of attempted murder when he appeared before Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Thompson Mabhikwa on circuit in Hwange last Friday.
He pleaded not guilty both to murder and attempted murder charges saying Mudenda slipped and fell headlong on the axe causing his death.During trial, Munkuli spoke incoherently, an act Justice Mabhikwa dismissed as an attempt to feign madness to escape jail.
A psychiatrist report stated that Munkuli had no history of mental illness, despite him claiming that he acted under the influence of a strange spirit that entered him.He claimed he felt like flying before attacking the helpless octogenarian. During mitigation, Munkuli who appeared calm while carrying a Bible, requested to address the court.
“I greet the honourable court and everyone in here. I have understood my conviction and plead for forgiveness from everybody in this court. Thank you,” he said.
His pro deo lawyer Mr U-ukumetsi Matjaka Nare said Munkuli, who had been in remand prison since April last year, was remorseful and regretted his actions hence he should be given time to reform.
The judge however, said Munkuli deserved to be removed from society as he had attacked an elderly person old enough to be his great grandfather.
“The accused deserves to be permanently removed from society. You should understand that probably you have been saved by your belief in witchcraft and because of that you have escaped the death sentence,” said Justice Mabhikwa before sentencing Munkuli to life in jail.
The two counts of culpable homicide were combined for sentencing and Munkuli was sentenced to 10 years in jail to run concurrently with the other sentence.
Prosecuting, Mrs Martha Cheda said Munkulu intentionally killed Mudenda as he struck him without provocation.She said Munkuli deserved a lengthy sentence.
“On the 8th of April 2018 the deceased and his wife Ms Stella Mudenda (61) were walking home from the fields along a small path when they met Munkuli who was carrying an axe. Munkuli accused the deceased of being a wizard and blocked his way,” said the prosecutor.
The court was told that sensing danger, Mrs Mudenda fled from the scene and hid behind some bushes a few metres away.
She witnessed Munkuli striking her husband once on the neck and the deceased fell down.After striking Mudenda, Munkuli proceeded to a nearby homestead where he asked for the whereabouts of Mrs Mudenda.
He attacked Ms Munkuli and Ms Siamuleba accusing them of hiding the deceased’s wife who he wanted to kill too.
He struck Ms Munkuli once on the head and Ms Siamuleba three times on the head, neck and chest.Ms Munkuli fled from her homestead and sought refuge at Mr Mboniso Ngwenya’s homestead before Munkuli followed and threatened to burn the hut in which she was hiding.
Some villagers apprehended and disarmed Munkuli. The deceased body was ferried to Binga District Hospital mortuary. The injured were treated at the district hospital and discharged. The Chronicle