Consultation time: Masingita Chabani whispers something to her lawyer, attorney Ronnie Rambau, during the trial.
The sound of traditional drums reverberated at the entrance to the Limpopo High Court sitting in Thohoyandou this week. This was during the trial of former Malamulele traffic officer Masingita Chabani. She is charged with the abduction of one-month-old Timothy Mbavala and the subsequent murder of the child's mother, Ms Hlulani Maswanganyi (17).
The incident in which the former traffic officer (47) faked a pregnancy and was also granted maternity leave at work happened in 2015.
The boy was later found alive, but Ms Maswanganyi 's body was never found.
Steven Sithole, an accomplice of Chabani's, has since pleaded guilty in the matter and been sentenced to 25 years in prison. He has turned state witness.
The court was filled by family members, relatives and community members, who had come to support the family. Outside court a sizeable number of protestors were singing, dancing and beating drums, telling the former traffic officer “to bring back the bones of Hlulani”.
Waving placards with messages written on them, the protestors said they were in court to highlight the plight of the family of the murdered woman and that they would never tire, until the former officer was sentenced to life in prison.
In court, the former officer looked relaxed and at ease. Wearing a brown dress, she followed the proceedings and listened to different witnesses who testified against her.
First to take the witness stand last Thursday was Hlulani's mother, Ms Ignitia Chauke. She told the court that she was at work in Gauteng when she received a call that Hlulani was missing. Her testimony centred around SMS messages Hlulani had sent to relatives on the day she had gone missing.
Since last week, more than 10 witnesses, among them the investigating officer, Chabani's mother and an uncle, have been called by the State, with a number still to be called. The trial is expected to be finalised by Friday (today).
During the trial, several items including a photo of Hlulani were submitted as evidence by the state.
Judge Francis Kganyago presided over the case.
Adv Absah Madzhuta prosecutes, while attorney Ronnie Rambau represents Chabani.
After the adjournment on Tuesday this week, family spokesman Wilson Mahlawule said he was happy that the wheels of justice are at long last moving with speed. "With whatever information that is coming to the fore, we have a belief that one day the truth will finally come and we bury the remains of our loved one in a decent way. Our prayers are that she opens up and tell us where the body is," said Mahlawule.
Community leader, Simon Makhubele said they will support the family to the end. "All we want is a lengthy sentence for Masingita Chabani and that she reveals where Hlulani is," he said.
Date:25 August 2017 - By: Elmon Tshikhudo
Elmon Tshikhudo started off as a photographer. He developed an interest in writing and started submitting articles to local as well as national publications. He became part of the Limpopo Mirror family in 2005 and has since been a familiar name among the newspaper's readers.