Alleged serial killer and policewoman Nomia Rosemary Ndlovu returns to court for judgment in her trial on Friday, marking one of the final chapters in a case that has gripped the nation.
As the case draws to a close, TimesLIVE today publishes a recap of damning previous testimony of the first hitman she allegedly approached to kill her cousin Gladys and her sister Joyce.
Njabulo Kunene was the first witness to testify against Ndlovu when her trial kicked off in July.
She is accused of killing six of those closest to her, including her lover, Maurice Mabasa. She is alleged to have recruited Kunene to kill Joyce and her five children, as well as Gladys. But Kunene did not carry out the killings, instead turning to the police to report her.
“When I looked at her, I realised that she is unbothered by taking a life. She takes killing lightly. She likens killing a person to simply squashing an ant,” Kunene told the high court in Johannesburg.
Ndlovu is in witness protection after he alerted police that he had learnt how, from behind bars, Ndlovu was planning a hit on the investigating officer in the case, Sgt Benneth Keshi Mabunda.
Ndlovu has already been charged for conspiracy to murder Mabunda and will appear in court for this following the conclusion of her current trial. But, knowing that Kunene’s own life would be in danger following the thwarted plan to kill Mabunda, police decided to protect Kunene.
“I first met her when she came to arrest me along with another male officer. They had come to arrest me at my place of residence. I was charged for being in possession of an unlicensed firearm. That charge was withdrawn in court,” said Kunene.
Days after the charges were withdrawn, Ndlovu drove past his house with another police officer. They called him over where she said she was pleased that the charges against him were withdrawn.
“I saw her again in 2017 when my sister Cebisile called me to her home. She is my cousin. I went there and was shocked to see her there. I told Cebisile you called me for a person who has arrested me before. Ndlovu laughed it off and said she was not there on those matters. She said I should come in and sit down. I did,” he said.
Kunene claimed that after Cebisile left them in the lounge to attend to customers who had come to buy bunny chow from her place, Ndlovu made his intentions clear.
“She said she needed some help from me. She said there is a job she needs me to do for her. She said there is a person who wants to get her fired from work and she needed me to get rid of that person for her,” said Ndlovu.
The state believes that the person Ndlovu was referring to was her cousin Gladys, who lived in the Phomolong section in Thembisa.
“I was shocked by this request because it came from a law-abiding citizen or enforcer of the law. Also, I am not a killer. When I said that, she started going into detail, explaining how dire her situation was and pleaded for my help,” Kunene said.
While the state has alleged Ndlovu's motivation for killing her relatives was for funeral and life insurance policy claims, he gave Kunene a different version of why he had wanted Gladys killed.
“She said there is a sister of hers who is a police reservist at the same police station where she works and they used to steal firearms in the police station but now the sister was becoming impatient at not being given a permanent post and wanted to expose her,” Kunene told the court.
“I told her I hear and sympathise with her but I am not a killer and therefore could not help her. She kept begging and pleading with me, saying she will lose her job and her children will go hungry if I didn't help her,” said Kunene.
“She suggested that if I could not do it myself, I should recruit an accomplice. I was happy she said that because that gave me a way out of her presence. I told her I would go ask my friend. I never gave her a name of my friend but I knew who I would contact. I called my friend, Lakhiwe Mkhize, and asked him where he was. He told me he was near the hostel with Jabulani Mtshali,” said Kunene.
They too have testified in the trial.
Kunene says he went to meet up with Mkhize, told him of what Ndlovu had asked of him and then asked him to accompany him back to Cebisile's house so they could meet Ndlovu.
“Mkhize and Mtshali were very shocked,” said Kunene.
“We went back and Ndlovu relayed the same to Mkhize, I thought perhaps this is part of some undercover operation or investigation she is working on and that there is no truth in this,” said Kunene.
All the while, Cebisile would leave and return to the room they were in and they changed the topic whenever she entered.
“We then agreed on payment. She said she would give us R1,200 and R15,000 once the job was done. She asked us to find a car so that she could show us where her sister lives,” Kunene said.
The two men left and came back with a vehicle, along with the vehicle's driver, Mduduzi.
Before they could leave the house with her, Cebisile asked where they were going and Ndlovu said she was getting a lift from the men to Phomolong section where she was fetching her sister's CV. Cebisile, however, requested to come along.
“Along the way, she made small talk that her sister has struggled for a long time in life, that she was concerned about her and was fetching her CV to help her,” Kunene said.
But prior to them leaving the house, Ndlovu had told Kunene and Mkhize how he would lure her sister Gladys out of the house.
“Ndlovu had told us she would go inside, would lure her out so we could see her and then that night, we were supposed to go back and kill her,” Kunene said.
When they reached the house, Cebisile had insisted on coming into the house, saying she wanted to ask for water. Ndlovu, Cebisile and Gladys later emerged from the house.
“I was overwhelmed seeing such a beautiful lady who was meant to be killed,” said Kunene.
The two women returned to the car and drove back to Cebisile's home where Ndlovu handed them R800 instead of the R1,200 they agreed on.
When they enquired, Ndlovu said she had needed the R400 to pay for her policies which were behind. These were seemingly policies she had in Gladys's name.
“We agreed to taking the R800 and it's because we knew that we were not prepared to do what she wanted us to do anyway. The job was meant to have been done that night,” said Kunene.
Ndlovu called him the next day, displeased.
“She asked what happened because she is not hearing any mourning coming from her sister’s place,” Kunene told the court.
“I told her that 'my sister, we failed'," Kunene said.
“She just said 'eish' and hung up,” Kunene said.
Ndlovu called him again a few days later and asked to see both Kunene and Mkhize. During this meeting, they were joined by Mtshali.
“We met at the Lerala train station near the hostel. We introduced Jabulani Mtshali and said he was a bother of ours and Ndlovu asked how come we failed [in killing Gladys]," Kunene said.
The men lied and said when they returned to her house, they found people sitting outside the yard and therefore found it impossible for them to go in and kill her.
“She said she understands and therefore had another plan. She said she would take Gladys out to Kempton Park as she is someone who loves having a good time. They would book a room in a guest house, buy drinks and she would spike Gladys's drink. Once her sister was drugged, she would call us to strangle her,” Kunene said.
But they discouraged her from the plan, saying it was too risky.
Two months later, Ndlovu again called Kunene, asking to meet him. At this point, he had already contacted police and informed them of what Ndlovu had asked of him again and again.
“We saw each other at Zinikho, greeted each other and she told me how she wanted to take me to Bushbuckridge so that I could kill her sister and her five children. It was just the two of us at this meeting,” Kunene said.
“She said her BMW had been kept by a loan shark she owed and if she did not pay up soon, the car would be forfeited. I asked her how the deaths would help her and she said she could then claim from the policies. I agreed to help and said I would hear from her on when we would go,” said Kunene.
He informed the police officer who worked at the Thembisa south police station where Ndlovu also worked. She was a police sergeant at the time.
“The policeman expressed that this was big and he would share it with their station commander. I met the police at a later stage after reporting this and the officer, Ntombela, fetched me and took me to the police station. I was with Mtshali on that day. I got to the police station and explained how Ndlovu had wanted me to go with her to Bushbuckridge to kill her sister and her five children. By chance, Ndlovu called me while I was in their company and I put her on loud speaker. She again narrated what she wanted me to do,” Kunene said.
During that conversation, Ndlovu explained how she wanted her sister burnt in her house using petrol.
Police then asked Kunene to delay the trip until they could alert the station commander, who was on leave, of their plot.
Kunene met Ndlovu that day.
“She bought me food and then gave me R500. She said the money was for me to buy alcohol so I could drink and have the courage to carry out the killing. I took the money. I then told her that I had left my gun at home. She said I should forget about the gun as we wouldn't use it to kill those people. But I told her I could not travel without it. I insisted that I go fetch it,” Kunene said.
That is how he managed to evade leaving for Bushbuckridge that day.
They met several days again. This time, Kunene was travelling with Mtshali and an undercover police officer they introduced as Rasta. He was meant to help them carry out the killing.
The four of them travelled in a car fitted with a camera that recorded their drive from Johannesburg to Bushbuckridge, where along the way Ndlovu detailed how the men should go about killing the six.
It was this crucial footage that led to Ndlovu's arrest.
State prosecutor, Riana Williams asked Kunene: “What happened to the sister in Phomolong?” referring to Joyce.
“She told me that she was finished with her, that she had killed her,” Kunene said.
Gladys, however, was still alive. After Ndlovu's arrest, police had alerted her of Ndlovu's plot to kill her. Upon learning of this, she packed up and left the house she was renting in Phomolong, wanting nothing to do with the Ndlovu or the case again.