A retired Eastern Cape police officer and his lover have each been sentenced to an effective 30 years in jail for killing the lover’s former husband and his new girlfriend in December 2017.
Mdantsane warrant officer Mthunzi Mbelwana and his girlfriend, Lebohang Mbola, were each sentenced by the Bhisho high court to an effective 25 years in jail for killing Mbola’s ex-husband, Themba Mbola, and another 25 years for the killing of Themba’s girlfriend, Andiswa Mhlontlo, during the gruesome 2017 incident which sent shock waves through the community.
High court acting judge Victor Nqumse also sentenced the couple to 12 years each for four attempted murders after they torched Themba and Mhlontlo’s house after killing him, while their three small children and a tenant were still inside.
They had faced 13 charges, including conspiracy to commit murder, arson, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, defeating the ends of justice and fraud.
Nqumse sentenced the couple to seven years in jail for arson and five years for fraud, while Mbelwana received an additional 10 years for possession of an unlawful firearm.
Some of the sentences will run concurrently, meaning that, though state prosecutor advocate Delion Willemse had called for life sentence for both convicted killers, they will effectively spend 30 years in jail.
Themba’s family described this as “a slap on the wrist considering the gruesome crimes the two committed”.
Pretending to be his cousin, Mbelwana took out insurance cover for Themba. Themba’s estranged wife did the same, with a R60,000 payout made by the insurance company after Themba’s death.
Lebohang and Themba had three children together, but divorced two years before the murders.
Themba and Mhlontlo were living together with their infant daughter and Mhlontlo’s two young children at the time of the murders.
The children were aged three, five and nine.
On the night of December 27 2017, Lebohang, Mbelwana and an unknown man stormed into Themba’s NU14 home where, at gunpoint, they tied him up and made him drink petrol before setting him alight.
Mhlontlo was also doused with petrol and set alight while alive.
During the commotion, a burning Themba apparently held on to Lebohang, resulting in her also sustaining burn wounds. Mbelwana at this point decided to shoot Themba in the head, ending his life on the spot.
They left the burning house with the children still inside.
However, a seriously injured Mhlontlo and her tenant managed to rescue the children from the burning house.
Mhlontlo was rushed to hospital, where she later died from burn wounds.
However, before she died she was able to tell relatives and the police who the culprits were.
Lebohang was arrested that night by investigating officer Sergeant Unathi Makala at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital, where she was receiving treatment for her burn wounds.
Mbelwana was arrested a few months later in 2018.
Both remained in police custody after their bail applications was denied in 2018.
The two initially pleaded not guilty, but Lebohang later confessed to killing Themba and Mhlontlo, saying she had also planned to kill herself so that her children could benefit from the insurance payouts.
Delivering his sentence on Friday, Nqumse said the killings had been premeditated and carefully planned, with a motive to cash in on the policies taken out by both killers.
However, he said in sentencing he had considered that both had comorbidities including diabetes, hypertension and HIV/AIDS.
Nqumse described the couple’s actions as heinous, gruesome and cold-blooded.
Themba’s sister Nobubele Mbola said her family was not pleased the pair had not received life sentences, as had been proposed by Willemse.
“We feel sad as a family, and we have lost hope in the justice system. Weighing up the sentence they received [against] the criminal acts they committed, we are not pleased.
“We had expected that they would be slapped with at least one life sentence, but the judge saw differently, and we are not pleased at all,” Nobubele said.
Mbelwana indicated that he would appeal both his conviction and sentence.
– Daily Dispatch