A police officer has been charged alongside four other people with the kidnapping and murder of his ex-wife.
The five were arrested just hours after the slain former Bhisho legislature employee, Nosipho Sidabuka-Jombile, was laid to rest on Thursday.
Sidabuka-Jombile, 51, was buried at her marital home village of Mabaleni near Qumbu during a small ceremony on Thursday morning. Her former boss, former legislature speaker and MEC Fikile Xasa, was among the mourners.
At about midday the same day police swooped on two suspects, who are sisters, and the police officer and two alleged hitmen were nabbed on Friday.
An illegal firearm was seized, which police at the weekend confirmed would be sent for ballistic testing to ascertain whether it was used to kill Ma-J, as Sidabuka-Jombile was affectionately known.
The former policeman’s service firearm was confiscated with two magazines, one for his state-issued firearm and another for his personal gun, as well as 25 bullets and handcuffs.
Sidabuka-Jombile was hijacked, kidnapped and shot in the chest on June 11. Her lifeless body was discovered in the veld a day later.
The five suspects are expected to appear at the Qumbu magistrate’s court on Monday.
The two had been divorced since 2017.
The arrests were confirmed by provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana.
“The suspects include two women who are sisters, aged 30 and 42, who were arrested at Zipunzana village in Libode on Thursday.
“They also include a 55-year-old man arrested on Friday in New Brighton in Mthatha, and found in possession of a 9mm pistol, the 52-year-old ex-husband to the deceased, also arrested at Zipunzana on Friday, and a 38-year-old man, believed to be a foreign national, who was arrest at Vulindlela Heights [in Mthatha] on Friday afternoon,” said Kinana.
Police have not ruled out the possibility of more arrests.
“All will be charged with murder, kidnapping, attempted murder and possession of an unlicensed firearm.
“Investigation continues and more arrests are imminent,” Kinana said.
The suspects cannot be named until they appear in court on Monday.
Sidabuka-Jombile’s killing comes amid a new wave of gender-based violence and femicide in SA in recent weeks.
President Cyril Ramaphosa and activists have described the scourge as a crisis that needs to be rooted out.
The retired civil servant and her son, 22, had been travelling from Mabaleni to Qumbu when their vehicle was stopped by a silver Polo with two occupants.
The two men allegedly pretended to be inquiring about something before pointing a firearm at her and demanding money.
Her son was pistol-whipped on the head and upper body but managed to flee the scene, according to police.
Family spokesperson Kolekile Jombile, a first cousin of the ex-husband, on Sunday welcomed the arrests.
“It is such a relief to us as a family. What is most comforting is that this was the much-needed breakthrough we have been praying for, which will send a strong message to similar perpetrators out there.
“Even though these developments will never bring her back, what is important is that justice will be served. Her abduction took its toll on us — finding her body was our worst nightmare as a family.
“We were deeply hurting and still are, but these arrests bring us closer to closure and we are bracing ourselves for the trial,” he said.
Jombile said the family had no sympathy for the arrested ex-husband, who is a warrant officer in Mthatha.
Truth be told, we are preparing ourselves for a very difficult journey as this matter involves one of our own family, but we are unashamed to say the law must take its course, and justice must prevail
“Truth be told, we are preparing ourselves for a very difficult journey as this matter involves one of our own family, but we are unashamed to say the law must take its course, and justice must prevail.”
Xasa, now an ANC MP, on Sunday praised the police for the swift arrests.
“We are highly pleased with these arrests, particularly those of us who were close to Nosipho.
“I worked with her for more than a decade. The swift action taken by the police caused me to immediately thank the provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga. The action itself will send a very strong message to those who are undermining the campaign of government against gender-based violence.
“We call for harsh punishment as one death is one too many,” said Xasa.
The Dispatch understands that the operation to track down Sidabuka-Jongile’s killers was spearheaded by the police organised crime unit in Mthatha and their counterparts in Qumbu.
Ntshinga on Sunday said: “While the SAPS prioritises every serious crime committed, we take serious exception to crimes committed against women and children. There is absolutely no excuse for those who inflict harm on and kill women.”
By Asanda Nini – DispatchLIVE