SHE HIRED ASSASSINS TO MURDER HER HUSBAND

LINDI MANGALISO: 1984

On the night of 16 December 1984, a wealthy Guguletu businessman named Victor Mangaliso, was stabbed to death in his luxurious Malungo Park home by two paid assassins, Sipo Peter (33) and Solomon Mbuzeli Shelini (43). At the time of his death, Mangaliso's life was insured for almost R500 000, and in the event of him being permanently disabled or paralysed, the value of his insurance policies increased to a staggering Rl,2 million. It would subsequently turn out that the two men who were involved in the killing were paid between R500 and R800 for carrying out the murder by Lindi Mangaliso, the victim's wife.

During the trial that followed, the Investigating Officer, Captain Leonard Knipe, of the Peninsula Murder and Robbery Squad, would remark, “Never in my experience as a policeman has there been a case which has gripped the imagination of the black community like this one.”

Lindi Nomso Mangaliso (nee Qunta) was the eldest of five children. She come from a good home and had grown up surrounded by love. Her mother, who as a member of the Fingo tribe and related to the Dhlaminis, the Swazi royal family, held a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Science. Her late father was a graduate of Fort Hare University and held both Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education degrees. He had been the principal of Langa High School, Cape Town, for more than twenty years and was highly respected in the community.

After matriculating from Langa High School, Lindi qualified as a nurse in Port Elizabeth. In 1972, while still a student nurse, she married Victor Mangaliso, who at the time worked in a bottle store. Initially, Mr and Mrs Qunta objected to the match - Victor's prospects were poor; his father worked as a cook in a hospital, and his mother was an unemployed domestic worker - but in the end, Lindi talked them round. After her marriage, she moved into a house with her in-laws in Guguletu.

After completing her training, Lindi obtained a nursing post at Groote Schuur Hospital. While still a nursing sister, she ventured into business for herself using her own capital and some money her mother had given her. She first bought a butchery in Langa, which was followed by a second one, and then she finally acquired the franchise for a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in Guguletu, Cape Town. Eventually, she decided to go into business full-time.

Her husband by this time was a representative for Nestle but he later began to work for his wife. Lindi's mother maintained that Lindi was the one with the ideas and business acumen and that Victor was merely a glorified bookkeeper. “As the business prospered,” she said, “they bought a home in the name of his mother because they wanted something more prestigious. Later they bought their own home. They lived very well.”

Throughout the marriage, Mr and Mrs Qunta remained concerned about their daughter, whose strong personality aroused violent reactions in her husband. Victor took a succession of girlfriends, drank heavily, and often became violent. “Sometimes she would call me at 2 a.m. and ask me to fetch her,” Mrs Qunta said. “I would ask my son to collect her. On occasions she had a black eye, which she tried to hide with sunglasses. At other times Lindi would phone and say that Victor was assaulting her. I would ask my son to take me to her home. I would talk to Victor. I felt it was useless because he was drunk. When he was sober he was very nice and used to say, 'Yes, Mama". It was very humiliating for Lindi and things did not improve over the years.”

After putting up with her husband's womanising, drinking and assaults for twelve years, Lindi felt 'angry' and 'humiliated'. She had made a number of attempts to save the marriage, all to no avail, and her life had finally become a misery. In the latter half of 1984, she decided to murder her husband. To this end, she turned for help to one of her employees, Washington 'Manyosi' Nxawe, who was working in one of her butcheries. Although Nxawe had only been in Mrs Mangaliso's employ for about two months, she confided in him. “She told me that she no longer loved her husband as he was playing the fool with her,” Nxawe said. “She asked me to get people to beat him up.”

At first Nxawe was skeptical, but after Mrs Mangaliso had spoken to him three times, he realised how serious she was. He also knew that she was prepared to pay 'plenty of money' to have her husband done away with. Eventually, Nxawe approached another man - Sipo Peter. One night, a month or so after Mrs Mangaliso first approached him, Nxawe arranged a meeting between Mrs Mangaliso, Peter and another man by the name of Mbuzeli Shelini. At the meeting, Mrs Mangaliso told the two men that she wanted them to attack her husband. That night, however, Victor returned home very late, by which time the two men had gone. “My husband is a very lucky man,” Mrs Mangaliso afterwards remarked.

A little while later, Mrs Mangaliso asked Nxawe if Peter could be trusted. “I told Lindi that Sipo could be trusted,” Nxawe said. “He was a brave man and would not divulge secrets as he was not a talkative man.”

A few days before the murder, the Mangaliso marriage faced another crisis. Lindi discovered that her husband had yet another girlfriend - this time a schoolgirl - and confronted him with the fact. Victor resented the way she had treated the whole affair and after at first denying everything, he eventually owned up and apologised. As far as Lindi was concerned, however, this was the final straw. On 15 December, she phoned Nxawe. “Sipo and his friend must do the job," she said. “Beat him up, paralyse or kill him!”

The following night, at about 2 a.m., Victor was called out of the house to investigate a burglar alarm, which had gone off for the second time that night in one of the butcheries. It turned out to be a false alarm, but this only seemed to worsen his mood. Angrily, he telephoned his wife. “He said I had to get the hell out of the house when he got home,” she said.

Mrs Mangaliso thought that she was going to be beaten again when her husband got home. In a state close to panic she telephoned Nxawe. “Victor has phoned me,” she said. “Get those guys you said you would get.” Nxawe promised to do so but didn't call back. Not long afterwards, Mrs Mangaliso phoned him again, wanting to know where the men were. Nxawe explained that he hadn't been able to get hold of them. 'Go and find them he ordered. Shortly afterwards, Nxawe, Peter and Shelini drove up to the house. Nxawe hooted twice and Mrs Mangaliso came to the door and let Peter and Shelini into the house. Nxawe then drove off. One of the men carried a knife and Mrs Mangaliso gave one of her own knives to the other. She showed them the main bedroom, the bathroom and where about R2 000 was hidden before taking them to the children’s room, where they hid. Eventually, Victor got back to the house. “I am not in the mood to beat you otherwise I would have beaten the daylights out of you,” he said. He made himself a snack and went to bed. After he had retired for the night the two men crept into the bedroom. Lindi was lying awake in the darkness, waiting for the two men to appear. “The bedroom door opened after a while,” she said. “I ran out of the room and was aware of two people entering the bedroom. I ran to the bathroom. I heard my husband saying, 'What do you want?’” “Where is the money?” one of the men replied.

Shortly afterwards, someone locked the bathroom door from the outside. She heard the sounds of a struggle and climbed through the bathroom window. After alerting the servants, she ran to a neighbour's house. It was hours later that she learnt her husband was dead.

At first the police suspected that the murder had been the work of an ANC hit-squad. (A few months earlier, attempts had been made to extort money from a number of prominent black leaders and death threats had been issued. At the time, Mrs Mangaliso had claimed that neither she nor her husband were 'interested in township or national politics'.)

As the police investigation continued, however, a number of anomalies revealed themselves. In her first statement, Mrs Mangaliso claimed that she had been asleep next to her husband when the intruders entered the bedroom, yet there was no blood on her nightclothes, nor could she explain why the robbers had attacked and so brutally murdered her husband, yet left her untouched. Furthermore, the account she gave of the way she escaped from the bathroom and raised the alarm did not stand up to close examination.

Eventually, the police arrested Nxawe, who was charged with conspiracy to commit murder. In exchange for immunity from prosecution, Nxawe later turned State's evidence and named his accomplices.

The trial of Lindi Mangaliso, Sipo Peter and Mbuzeli Shelini, all of whom were charged with murder, began at the Cape Town Supreme Court on 18 March 1986. Ail three accused pleaded not guilty. After a lengthy trial, which was delayed by a number of interruptions and the fact that two of the accused changed counsel, Mangaliso, Sipo and Shelini were found guilty of murder on 24 November 1986. In his four-hour summing-up of the marathon trial, Mr Justice de Kock said that the total evidence showed that Mangaliso 'planned and arranged the attack on Mr Mangaliso with the assistance of Washington 'Manyosi" Nxawe and admitted the assailants to the house intending them to attack and kill her husband,' and, 'at least stood by' while her husband was attacked. The court also rejected the claim by Shelini that he was an innocent party in the affair in that he remained standing in the passage while Peter stabbed Mr Mangoliso. Referring to a letter (see end) allegedly written in Pollsmoor prison by Shelini, where he was remanded during the trial, Mr Justice de Kock said that it was clear from the contents that he admitted he took part in the crime 'and that he fears the consequences that will follow'. The court also rejected Peter's evidence that he was ill in bed on the night of the killing. The court accepted as admissible evidence - despite the fact that he would later claim the statement was made under duress - Peter's earlier statement in which he admitted that he and Shelini were taken to the Mangaliso's house where they fought with and killed Mr Mangaliso.

Sentence was finally passed on 12 December 1986. Peter and Shelini were condemned to hang because they had 'deliberately and willingly taken part in this heinous crime for financial gain'. Mrs Mangaliso was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Her husband's abuse, betrayal and humiliation' were seen as extenuating circumstances. On occasion, Mrs Winnie Mandela, who was a bosom friend of Lindi Mangaliso, attended the trial. As she was leaving the court on 4 December, she was pelted with softdrink cans, orange peel and sand by a large, angry crowd. “Winnie Mandela is the wife of our leader,” one protester maintained. “She should not be supporting Lindi Mangaliso!” Mrs Mandela later blamed 'the system' for stage-managing the demonstration against her.

Following the trial, the Mangaliso's three children went to live with their maternal grandmother, Mrs Grace Qunta. Timo Bezuidenhoud, who had been chief administrator of Cape Town's black townships for many years and was a friend of Mrs Mangaliso, was appointed curator responsible for the children's portion of their father's estate. Lindi Mangaliso is incarcerated in Polismoor prison.

On 4 March, 1989, Shelini and Peter were reprieved and had their death sentences commuted to 20 years imprisonment by the Acting State President, Mr Chris Heunis.

In August 1985, an anonymous letter addressed to 'Lean' was found in the cell Shelini was being held in along with some other men. The letter said:

'If you can get me out of this place I really don't know what I will do for you. Please Dear try all you can. Those people must die before the 13th. and I will pay. Also the court books must be missing. If your brother can kill these people I will be a free man. Even my cell-mate with this woman they are throwing everything at me. Here are the names of these people: Nxawe, Julius Tshaka , Leonard Knipe (he is a white man).'

A handwriting expert identified Mbuzeli Shelini as the author of the letter. (Julius Tshaka was reputedly in the house when the murder took place. Shelini implicated him in the crime but Tshaka was not charged.)

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