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By Vhahangwele Nemakonde

Digital Deputy News Editor

Life insurance murders: Five notable cases in recent years

Here are some of South Africa's life insurance murder cases in the last five years.

The South African Police Service (Saps) has called on insurance companies and families to be extra vigilant and alert to life insurance fraud in light of Segomotsi Agnes Setshwantsho’s ongoing case in which she is accused of killing family members for insurance money.

According to the Association for Savings and Investment South Africa (Asisa) SA life insurers and investment companies detected 2,618 cases of fraudulent and dishonest life insurance claims in 2022.

ALSO READ: Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu sentenced to life imprisonment for murder

Funeral insurance topped the claims with 1,922, followed by death cover (399), disability cover (164), hospital cash plans (98) and retrenchment/loss of income benefit cover (35).

The companies lost R17 million to these claims.

The majority of fraudulent and dishonest claims came from KwaZulu-Natal, followed by Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape.

There are cases where people use lost or stolen ID documents to insure strangers, claim unknown bodies as their relatives and cash in on the life insurance, subsequently declaring the owner of the ID document deceased while they’re still alive.

ALSO READ: Daughter convicted of mother’s murder in Mpumalanga

However, there are also cases where the insured persons are murdered for the benefit of the insurance money.

Here are some of the notable cases in recent years

Valencia Nonhlanhla Mthunywa

Valencia Nonhlanhla Mthunywa was on Monday sentenced by the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court to 20 years of direct imprisonment for the murder of her mother, Wanter Bajabulile Dlamini, 62.

The 33-year-old woman was charged along with her sister Bathabile Penelope Mthunywa, 39, Nombuso Philadelphia Ndwandwa, 41, and Steen Silo Mashakeng, 35.

According to the NPA spokesperson Monica Nyuswa, on 6 January 2020 in Barberton, Valencia invited the deceased to her boyfriend’s house and conspired to kill her to claim an R80,000 insurance policy which was taken by Ndwandwa in the deceased’s name in November 2019.

ALSO READ: Another insurance money murder? 2 sisters and 2 men in the dock over Mpumalanga mom’s death

The deceased was assaulted, raped, and strangled until she died. The deceased’s body was discovered dumped at a local dumping area.

A few days later, a claim from Old Mutual was received from the deceased’s daughters.

Segomotsi Agnes Setshwantsho

In November last year, 49-year-old Segomotsi Agnes Setshwantsho was arrested on suspicion that she murdered her relatives to benefit from insurance claims.

The suspect was traced to and arrested in Centurion during a takedown operation led by the Saps in collaboration and full cooperation with an insurance company.

This after a two-month investigation by Sergeant Keshi Mabunda and a team of detectives following a tip-off from relatives of the suspect.

Through analysis and collection of evidence, including the exhumation of a body, the team was able to allegedly link Setshwantsho to a death in the family.

ALSO READ: Defence says one murder charge can’t be modus operandi as ‘insurance fraud killer’ sobs in court

The death that was initially ruled a ‘natural death’ happened in Mmabatho in the North West, where a female relative died under mysterious circumstances in March 2023.

Investigations revealed that the suspect allegedly fraudulently took out insurance on behalf of her relative, prior to the woman’s death.

Investigations into the deaths of the suspect’s son who died in July 2023, her husband who died in 2016 and her two daughters who died in 2015 and 2005 are ongoing.

Setshwantsho remains behind bars after she was denied bail.

The case has been postponed to 28 March for further investigations.

Phumaphi Gloria Gwebu

In March 2023, the Mpumalanga Division of the High Court sentenced Phumaphi Gloria Gwebu, 47, to life imprisonment for the murder of her husband Sipho Shadrack Dimba, 52.

This after pleading guilty before the court, explaining she took five insurance policies for the deceased, one of which was to pay out R530,000 upon the death of the husband.

According to NPA spokesperson Monica Nyuswa, Gwebu waited until the policies matured and then arranged with the hitmen a few weeks before they killed the deceased.

On 12 December 2019, the hitmen came to the house during the night as arranged and carried out the task.

ALSO READ: Hitman foiled cop’s plan to wipe out her entire family

“Upon their arrival, they went straight to the bed where the deceased was sleeping. They grabbed him and strangled him to death in full view of the accused. They then took the deceased’s body and threw it into the nearby river and fled,” said Nyuswa.

The hitmen were paid R20,000 for the job.

The body of the deceased was discovered two days later by a passerby.

The accused was arrested a year later after one of the killers confessed to the police and implicated her as the mastermind behind the murder.

Pastor Melisizwe Monqo

In November 2021, the High Court of South Africa: Western Cape Division sentenced pastor Melisizwe Monqo, his wife Siphosihle Pamba and hitman, Phumlani Qhusheka, after their conviction on charges of kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances and murder of Hlompo Koloi.

The 32-year-old pastor was sentenced to life and 252 years and three months’ imprisonment. His 26-year-old wife was sentenced to an effective 20 years’ imprisonment. Qhusheka, 31, was sentenced to life and 63 years.

The case involved a scam where Monqo and his wife took out life insurance policies on behalf of church members, his ex-lover, the mother of his child and planned their murders with intent to benefit from the payment of the life insurance policies.

Life insurance policies were taken on behalf of Nomfundiso Booi, Anelisa Xhotyeni, Bulelwa Sihawu and Koloi. The unsuspecting victims were insured to the benefit of more than R26.9 million.

The body of Koloi was found lying on the side of Voëlklip gravel road on July 2018.

After the discovery of the body, Monqo and Pamba gave the investigating officer Sergeant Thembekile Matwa false statements on 11 July 2018 and the three accused were arrested on the respective dates, 16 July 2018, 20 July 2018 and 7 July 2018.

ALSO READ: ‘List of addresses, new passport’ – NPA insists ‘insurance fraud killer’ is a flight risk

Ensuing investigations revealed that the unemployed Koloi was told that she had a job interview at the George Airport. On this day, she called friends to borrow money for a taxi fare to attend the interview.

Her boyfriend and her brother accompanied her to the hiking spot at Thembalethu bridge, George. She boarded a silver-grey sedan driven by Monqo with Qhusheka seating at the back. A few hours later, her lifeless body was found with seven stab wounds and a slit throat.

Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu

In November 2021, former police officer Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu was sentenced by the Johannesburg High Court, sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court, to life in prison for murder.

Ndlovu was found guilty of murder (six counts), fraud (four counts), defeating the ends of justice and attempted murder.

Ndlovu was sentenced to life in prison – 25 years for each of the six murders she was found guilty of as well as:

  • Five years for defeating the ends of justice.
  • 10 years for each count of fraud.
  • 10 years for each of the seven counts of incitement to commit murder.
  • 10 years for attempting to murder her mother, Maria Mushwana.

Ndlovu received more than R1.4 million in insurance payouts after the deaths of five of her relatives and her boyfriend over a period of six years between 2012 and 2018.

According to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the insurance policies were mostly for unnatural death and Ndlovu was beneficiary.

Her killing spree came to an end when Vincent Kunene, one of the hitmen she hired to kill her sister as well as her children, was horrified that she wanted kids murdered and reported it to the police.

After this, a trap was set and an undercover police officer filmed Ndlovu telling him to burn her sister and her five children alive in a house in Bushbuckridge.

Ndlovu – a former police officer, who was stationed at the Tembisa police station – was subsequently arrested.

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