On December 30, 2018, a 24-year-old South African mother, named Zinhle Maditla, handed herself over to police in Klarinet eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, after neighbours were alerted to the smell of decomposing bodies in the two-room house she lived in.
After that, investigators made a gruesome discovery when they entered the house. The lifeless bodies of Maditla’s four children ― eight-year-old Minenhle, seven-year-old Blessing, three-year-old Shaniqua, and her 11-month-old brother, Ethen ― were found in a state of decomposition.
A postmortem report revealed that the children had ingested some sort of rat poison, which ate its way into their digestive system, rendering a slow, painstaking death. The Klarinet community noted that the children were last seen alive on December 26, 2018, four days prior to the gruesome discovery of their rotting corpses.
Maditla had an argument with the father of two of her children after finding him with another woman. On her way home that day, she bought rat poison and put it into the food she prepared for the three oldest children. She then laced her breast with the same poison before feeding her baby.
For days, Maditla kept the children’s bodies wrapped in a blanket in her room and when they were finally discovered, they had already begun decomposing. When neighbours inquired about the bad smell emanating from her room, she allegedly told them that she kept rotten meat in the room.
According to Maditla’s confession, after stumbling upon the affair between the father of her youngest children and another woman, she thereafter tried poison herself and her four minors by eating food laced with rat poison. Her kids died but she survived.
Maditla testified about how she went out drinking with friends after she killed her children, and only returned home in the early morning hours. She then tried to revive her children and sat with their corpses for hours. She told the court how she drank rat poison a second time several days later, on the day she reported herself to the police.
Maditla decided to hand herself over to police after confessing the murders to a friend who advised her to report the matter. On her way to the police station, her mother also phoned to ask about flies and a stench coming from her room.
In September 2019, Zinhle Maditla asked the court for mercy. Tears began to flow when she apologised to her family, her mother and the fathers of her children. She told the court she regrets what she did. She said she can’t sleep at night because of her guilty conscience. While the state argued that Maditla had several opportunities to save the children.
The Mpumalanga mom was found guilty of murdering her four children in Klarinet, and was sentenced to four life terms in prison by the Mpumalanga High Court.
This is how Judge Segopotje Mphahlele handed down the judgment to Zinhle Maditla:
“I am of the considered view that the life imprisonment on each of the murder counts is the appropriate sentence and as a result I sentence the accused as follows for the murder of the little Minenhle Maditla, you’re hereby sentenced to life imprisonment. In respect of the murder of the little Blessing Maditla, you’re hereby sentenced to life imprisonment. In respect of the murder of Shaniqua Maditla, you’re hereby sentenced to life imprisonment. In respect of the murder of the little Ivan Maditla, you’re also sentenced to life imprisonment.”
Judge Mphahlele said Maditla should have asked for help. She says Maditla had ample time to reconsider executing her children. Maditla waited for three days to tell anyone but by then the children’s bodies were in a state of decomposition. Judge Mphahlele also found contradictions in Maditla’s mitigation of sentence earlier that week.
Maditla sobbed and hugged her family members after she was sentenced. She wept while she was escorted down to the holding cells. Whatever the circumstance was, in the end, it’s considered as one of the rarest brutal crimes and Maditla has to pay for what she did.