Phylis Kachere-Deputy News Editor-Convergence
Two women, one from Bulawayo and another from Beitbridge, who faced a similar charge of murder after stabbing their drunk spouses with kitchen knives, today share a prison cell at Chikurubi Female Prison in Harare.
United in their double grief for their spouses and being the cause of their deaths, young mothers Nomzamo Luhle Dube (34) and Geraldine Nyoni (31), now serving their jail sentences, say while they deserve their long jail sentences, their hearts are out with their minor children whose welfare remains the cause of their worries.
Dube and Nyoni are lucky in that the Constitution instructs that no woman be sentenced to death after being convicted for murder.
Explaining this situation, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said: “The current position in the Constitution reflects a compromise agreement between the parties to the Constitution making process, which has largely been viewed as a tremendous starting point towards the total abolition of the death penalty.
“The process of coming up with this current Constitution as an activity included public consultations and a referendum where an overwhelming majority of people voted for retaining the death penalty.
“Resultantly, section 48 (2) of the Constitution permits the sentencing of men between the ages of 21 and 70 years if they are convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances.
“Therefore, the sentence cannot be carried out on women and male persons who are under the age of 21 and over the age of 70 years.”
Speaking during an interview at Chikurubi Female Prison where she is serving her 25-year-jail term, Dube of Pumula South in Bulawayo narrated how she ended up stabbing her husband, Martin Luther Jabulani Ncube, with a kitchen knife after he arrived home in the wee hours of the morning on March 2, 2018 after a beer drink.
“On that day, my husband Martin had left home earlier with some of his friends at around 7.30pm and went to a local shopping centre,” she said. “I followed and caught up with them and we proceeded to drink beer together.
“At around 10pm, I left the pub where we were drinking with some of his friends and I went home. I was drunk.”
Dube said at around 1am, her husband arrived home and knocked on their door.
“I instructed my then 10-year-old daughter to open the door, but she failed to open it,” she said. “I then woke up and opened the door during which the deceased started assaulting me, accusing me of delaying opening it for him.
“He kicked me all over the body during which he tripped and fell and at that point he picked a knife which was on the floor and tried to stab me.”
Dube, who throughout the interview had her eyes stuck on the ground, raising her head occasionally to adjust her sun hat, said she managed to wrest the knife from her husband and accidentally stabbed him in the chest.
She told the court that it was not her intention to kill him, hence her pleading to a lesser count of culpable homicide.
This was contrary to what her daughter had told the court, resulting in her conviction on murder.
Her daughter, (name withheld to protect the minor) gave the court a detailed testimony of how her mother incessantly attacked her stepfather, the now deceased Martin, before she stabbed him as he pleaded for mercy.
She told the court that her mother later instructed her to open the door and when the deceased walked in, an altercation ensued between the two.
“My stepfather arrived home shortly after 1am and knocked on the door while we were watching television with my mother,” the daughter told the court during trial. “My mother refused to open the door and he persistently pleaded with her to open, but she remained adamant.
“When dad walked in, my mother immediately shouted at him before they went to the bedroom. I followed them and witnessed my mother indiscriminately punching dad on the face as he continuously pleaded with her to stop.
“Throughout the scuffle, my dad never retaliated, but only pushed my mother resulting in her hitting against a wardrobe.”
Dube was convicted of murder with actual intent by Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Maxwell Takuva and sentenced to 25 years in jail.
During sentencing, Justice Takuva said: “Looking at the manner in which the offence was committed, the court has no option but to apply a retributive sentence as opposed to a rehabilitative one. These courts discourage domestic violence which results in unnecessary deaths and we are saying kitchen knives should be reserved for cutting vegetables and meat and not to be used as murder weapons.
“No one is allowed to take away someone’s God-given life. Therefore, this trend must be nipped in the bud through imposing stiff penalties to perpetrators. In aggravation, we note that the accused person’s conduct resulted in unnecessary loss of life. You killed a person who was a year your junior treating him like a rabid dog which could be chased away anytime.”
Mother of three minor children, Geraldine Nyoni (31), who is now serving a 15-year jail term for killing her 50-year-old husband, Majahana Mazibuko, said they had a history of domestic violence since they started living together.
“On March 4, 2017 at around 8pm we were at our rented quarters in Dulivhadzimu in Beitbridge when an altercation ensued over rentals,” she said. “We owed our landlord, and it had been days with me playing hide and seek with him.
“We had earlier discussed the issue with my husband and I had told him that instead of going for beer drinks, he should give me the money so that I would pay our rent.”
An earlier altercation over the paternity of their then five-month-old baby had led to a bitter exchange of harsh words, with Nyoni telling a drunk Mazibuko that he was not the father of the child.
“After the altercation, at around 8pm, Zwelibanzi Phakathi and Saidi Chisa, who are my late husband’s relatives, came to our house,” said Nyoni. “They complained over what they said was my ill-treatment of my husband. We exchanged harsh words over the accusations, but they later left and drove away in their car.”
Court records show that Mazibuko remained behind and tried to calm his wife who by then was trembling with rage.
Nyoni is said to have kicked Mazibuko on his private parts and a scuffle ensued again.
“We started fighting again and I picked up a knife and stabbed him on the right side of the neck. I panicked and ran away to the police station,” she said.
At the police station, Nyoni tried to mislead the police, claiming she had run away from her husband who was physically abusing her.
Meanwhile, neighbours rushed Mazibuko, who was lying in a pool of blood, to Beitbridge District Hospital where he died upon admission.
Nyoni was later arrested by police and the blood-stained knife was recovered from their house.
The two women told The Herald that while they appreciated their jail sentences, their major worries were the upkeep and welfare of their minor children.
“I am an orphan and I was brought up by my grandmother,” Dube said, tears streaming down her gaunt cheeks. “When I was arrested, my two children were sent to live with my grandmother. But she has since died. I don’t even know who is taking care of them now.
“This has become my cause of worry. They have no one to provide and take care of them. I killed their father and I am here in jail. I cannot bear the pain. I want to apologise to President Mnangagwa and to Zimbabwe. It is my hope that the President will hear my plea and pardon me. I deserve all this jail term. But I have minor children that need me.”
Nyoni said jail life has changed her and her view on life.
“I never anticipated that one day I would be in prison, for murder,” she said. “It took me a long time to adjust and come to terms with what had happened. I still don’t understand how I could get that angry to an extent of stabbing my husband to death.
“My biggest worry now is the welfare of my three children. I always worry about who is providing for them. It is my prayer every day that President Mnangagwa hears my plea and pardons me. I have agreed to this interview, with the hope that the President reads about my story and forgives me so I can go and look after my children. They have no one to look after them.”