Ndudula not guilty of killing husband

Judge finds ballistic evidence of widow’s innocence ‘overwhelming’

Bulelwa Ndudula at the East London High Court on Monday, where she was found not guilty of murdering her husband.
Bulelwa Ndudula at the East London High Court on Monday, where she was found not guilty of murdering her husband.
Image: Gugu Phandle

When the judge’s words “not guilty” were uttered, and “you are free to go”, widow Bulelwa Ndudula stood rooted to the dock.

The show was over but Judge Igna Stretch had to repeat her words before Ndudula started moving.

As Stretch’s ruling came to the final judgment, the packed courtroom went absolutely silent.

The eyes of Ndudula and her family in the gallery were fixed on the judge, and when the verdict came, their faces showed disbelief.

Then came the tears, from Ndudula and some of her family.

This came some moments after the case had adjourned in mid-stride when an interpreter asked the judge if he could go to the bathroom.

During this adjournment, an animated Ndudula was heard saying to supporters: “I am going to walk free!

“You can hear the judge is questioning the credibility of some of the witnesses.”

She turned to the Dispatch and, smiling, said: “Please don’t take pictures of me when I leave – you have taken a lot of my pictures.”

Earlier, when it became clear which way the judgment was heading, four family members of Ndudula’s late husband Sakhekile, simply started gathering up their cellphones and snapping closed their handbags before leaving the courtroom.

Afterwards Ndudula, who has consistently been a bubbly presence, smiling for the cameras, went into an emotional state, and refused to comment.

Sakhekile’s distraught family members were later seen huddling outside the court with the prosecution and police investigators. Ndudula was acquitted on all three charges connected with the case.

Her politician husband Sakhekile, 51, was shot dead on September 2016.

Judge Igna Stretch found her: lNot guilty of murdering her husband, who had served as an ANC regional leader in the Chris Hani district and was chief of staff at the then-social development MEC Nancy Sihlwayi’s office when he was killed; and

Not guilty on two other charges of illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition.

Stretch questioned the credibility of state witnesses, saying some of them were not honest and went out of their way to try and implicate the widow.The judge ruled that the presence of gunshot residue on Ndudula’s right hand and the red jacket she wore on the day of the shooting did not prove that she was the actual shooter on the day.

Stretch relied on the ballistic evidence of a police expert which showed that the shots that were fired on the day did not come from one 9mm pistol but from two different firearms, which are yet to be recovered by investigators.

After analysing the cartridges found on the scene, the police expert had compiled an affidavit which showed that the shots came from two different 9mm pistols.

However, this affidavit was never presented to the court by the state, opening the way for the defence team to use the evidence to their advantage.

Stretch described the state’s evidence on primer gunshot residue, which the state had relied on heavily, as “inconclusive”. She found the evidence that revealed that there were possibly two guns fired on the day, to be “damning”.

The judge said: “At the end of the day, this court is left with a very simple exercise, which is to decide the weight to be attached to the inconclusive primer residue evidence on which the state seeks to rely, as opposed to the damning evidence of the two firearms. The answer is obvious.

“The ballistic evidence is overwhelming. It emanates from the state’s own witness and it was not challenged.

“Even if the evidence of the circumstantial witnesses was honest and reliable, which it is not, and even if the evidence regarding the primary residue was overwhelmingly strong, which it is not, this court is still faced with the uncontested evidence that the projectiles submitted for ballistic testing show that the probabilities are overwhelmingly strong that at least two 9mm firearms were used in the commission of the offence, neither of which have been found despite a diligent search,” said Stretch.

She said it was clear from the objective evidence that Ndudula had little or no opportunity to readjust the crime scene and dispose of any weapon or weapons.

“This is a hurdle which the prosecution was aware of before the commencement of this trial in May, and which it has not been able to overcome.”