Betty Ndlovu (54) of Paneni line, under chief Gampu in Tsholotsho assaulted her late grand-daughter for playing next door. Ndlovu who looks after her HIV positive orphaned grandchildren, flogged Ellen Moyo with a switch until she fainted.
In a state of panic, a court heard, Ndlovu tried to revive the child by smoking her with herbs and in the process burnt the child on the face. Bulawayo High Court judge Justice Nicholas Mathonsi sitting on circuit in Hwange found Ndlovu not guilty of murder but convicted her of culpable homicide.
The judge said Ndlovu was responsible for initiating the chain reactions that eventually led to the death of the toddler but could not be blamed. “You’re an unsophisticated rural woman who may have done what you did out of trying to help the child but those actions may have contributed to her death not necessarily the assault,” said Justice Mathonsi.
“You must know that you set in motion events that eventually led to the death of the deceased. Your actions of burning incense and making the child inhale the substance eventually caused her death. With the circumstances and evidence heard before this court I find you not guilty of murder but guilty of culpable homicide
“I sentence you to four years imprisonment which is wholly suspended on condition that you do not commit a similar offence within the next five years.” The court heard that on February 25 last year at around 3PM Ndlovu followed the child who was playing at Sta Ndlovu’s homestead with other children.
She took Ellen and her siblings, Shelta and Nsunsu back to her homestead where she assaulted them with a switch.
“Deceased’s elder sister Simosenkosi returned home from school and found her grandmother burning incense for her young sister to inhale but she wasn’t responding. Ndlovu sent her to call for assistance but the child was already dead,” said the prosecutor, Mr Namatirai Ngwashe. However, in a bizarre twist of events the child’s body was later found with an eye missing. Investigators could not ascertain what had happened to it.
According to the postmortem report the child died when food in her stomach went into the lungs during the assault.
“Although the child was severely assaulted, the immediate cause of death was the gastric contents aspiration from an overfull stomach. People with overfull stomachs easily aspirate even with minimum trauma to the back, chest and abdomen,” read the report.
“The smoking of the child on its own could have caused death by causing inhalational airway and lung damage and hypoxia.” Ndlovu through her lawyer, Givemore Muvhiringi, said her grandchild was an HIV positive epileptic patient who had suffered three attacks on the fateful day.
She said she burnt some traditional herbs for her to inhale as she has always done to stop the recurrent attacks. She said a day after her granddaughter’s death she and other mourners were shocked to discover that her left eye had been removed.