BUSINESS owner Lazarus Shaduka is guilty of the murder of his wife in their home in Windhoek in July 2008, and must serve a prison term of 20 years for that crime, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday.
In a stunning reversal of fortune for Shaduka (39), the Supreme Court ruled in favour of a State appeal against his acquittal on a charge of murder. Chief Justice Peter Shivute and Judges of Appeal Gerhard Maritz and Sylvester Mainga set aside the High Court’s conviction of Shaduka on a count of culpable homicide, and also set aside the sentence – a fine of N$25 000 or one year’s imprisonment – he had received on that conviction on August 30 2010, replacing it with a conviction on a murder charge and a sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
“I think justice has prevailed at least,” Leopold Shaimemanya, father of Shaduka’s late wife, Selma Shaimemanya (33), said in response to the appeal judgement.
He said that, nearly four and a half years after the death of his daughter, the loss that he and his family experienced is still hard to deal with. They are coping, though, he said. He last saw Shaduka in court during his trial, he added.
Shaduka went through a high-profile trial before Judge Kato van Niekerk in June and August 2010. He was tried on counts of murder and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, or attempting to do so, in connection with the shooting death of his wife in the couple’s home in Klein Windhoek on July 13 2008.
Shaimemanya died after she had been struck by a bullet fired from Shaduka’s 9 mm pistol.
According to testimony delivered during the trial Shaduka initially claimed his wife had shot herself, and then that an unknown person or persons had shot her, before he settled on the version that she had been struck when a shot accidentally went off.
Judge Van Niekerk did not accept this testimony in his own defence, and, relying instead on the initial version Shaduka had given to the police after his arrest, convicted him of culpable homicide after finding that he had handled the firearm negligently.
The court also heard testimony which indicated that Shaduka had assaulted his wife in the past and threatened to kill her, Judge Mainga noted in the appeal judgement, which he wrote.
He also noted that there was evidence that Shaimemanya had asked the police to remove Shaduka’s firearm from their home, and that he again fetched the gun from the police in April 2008. When Shaduka did so, he told a police officer that he had received help for a drug problem – he was using cocaine at the time – and that he wanted to rebuild his marriage.
Â“That testimony puts beyond doubt not only that the marriage was not a happy one but that the accused was an abusive husband who had threatened the life of the deceased before,” Judge Mainga stated.
He said he had no doubt that Judge Van Niekerk had correctly rejected Shaduk’s eventual version of events as an afterthought: “What is before the court is a story put forward by a dishonest witness; a story which is false beyond reasonable doubt and should be rejected as a concoction designed to escape conviction.”
The setting in which the shooting took place suggested that Shaduka had left home that morning and returned when it was almost dark, that he was smelling of liquor, and in the context of a turbulent and often acrimonious marital relationship an argument ensued on his arrival, Judge Mainga said.
When the fatal shot was fired, Shaduka had the pistol in his hand, pressed against Shaimemanya’s back, and must have applied pressure to the gunÂ’s trigger, the judge concluded.
Notwithstanding his earlier threats against Shaimemanya, the evidence did not suggest that Shaduka had planned to commit the murder, but rather that it had been committed on the spur of the moment, Judge Mainga commented.
Lawyer Albert Strydom represented Shaduka during his trial and in the appeal. Deputy Prosecutor General Belinda Wantenaar represented the State.