Following a frenzied attack on a Pietermaritzburg policewoman at the weekend, her alleged killer curled up next to her body and lay weeping until police arrived and arrested him.
Sergeant Thabisile Penelope Zondi (41), who was stationed at Plessislaer police station, was beaten to death with a pickaxe handle late on Friday night, allegedly by a man who was close to her.
Speaking to The Witness at the scene of the murder in the Grange area on Sunday, a neighbour, who asked not to be named, said he was woken at around 11.30 pm on Friday by the disturbing sounds of a woman screaming and crying.
The man quickly got out of bed and hurried outside to his neighbour’s home, where the cries were coming from.
“She [Zondi] was lying on the ground, outside her front door. She was crying and he [a man who is close to Zondi] was beating her with the handle of a pickaxe,” said the neighbour.
“I tried to get between them, but he would not stop. I was shouting at him to stop, but he carried on.”
The neighbour said the man only stopped hitting her when he realised that Zondi had died.
“I asked him why he did this but he did not say anything.
“He saw she was dead and he started crying. He lay down next to her body and wept, until the police came.”
The neighbour said during the four years he has known Zondi, the man often argued with Zondi and was allegedly “known to be abusive”.
He said Zondi was a quiet person who was always willing to help her neighbours and others.
The neighbour added that watching Zondi being beaten was an image that he cannot erase from his mind, and he is finding it difficult to cope with the violent murder of his neighbour.
Zondi lived in a house with two other houses on the property.
Blood stains from her murder could still be seen on the concrete stoep outside her kitchen door where her body was found.
The neighbour, who looked exhausted as he told The Witness of his ordeal, said there was no one on the property that night besides him, Zondi and Zondi’s alleged killer, and with Zondi’s family living in Durban, there appeared to be no relatives nearby.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Thembeka Mbele said it is believed Zondi and the man had an argument before he started beating her.
“The suspect severely assaulted the officer [Zondi] with the pick handle several times on the body as well as on her face,” said Mbele.
“A case of murder was opened at Alexandra police station and the suspect was arrested.
“He will appear at court [on Monday] facing charges of murder,” she said.
The investigation has now been handed over to the Hawks in Pietermaritzburg.
Plessislaer police spokesperson and Zondi’s colleague, Captain Musa Ntombela, said the station was “extremely saddened” by the loss of a colleague of such a “high calibre”.
Ntombela said Zondi had worked as a sergeant at Plessislaer in the visual policing unit and had been a policewoman for over a decade.
“She was always willing to help her colleagues and was very good at her job.
“She was a sociable woman and her years of experience cannot be replaced.
“We at Plessislaer are shocked at this loss and send our sincerest condolences to her family,” said Ntombela.
Distraught family members of the victim declined to speak to The Witness when contacted yesterday.
Open Door Crisis Centre’s Thora Manfield said there appeared to be more violence against women during the 16 days of activism than there was before.
She said Christmas bonuses may contribute to the acts of violence, however, there was no excuse for such a crime and she hoped the man would be brought to justice.
“It is deplorable that women are still being beaten and killed. It is an abomination,” she said.
She said women who found themselves in abusive relationships should seek protection orders and go to a shelter for abused women to “help them” through their ordeals.
Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre to end violence against women senior researcher and political analyst Lisa Vetten said in 2009, 57% of women who were murdered in South Africa during that year, were killed by their intimate partners. She said that in 2009 statistics showed three women were killed every day by their intimate partners in South Africa, which was five times the global average. — WR.