A traditional healer who masterminded the gruesome murder of a woman with albinism — whose genitals‚ arm and other body parts were mutilated for muthi — was sentenced to life on Wednesday.

Bhekukufa Gumede‚ 67‚ a leader of the Zion Congregation Church with 15 branches across South Africa‚ was convicted in the Mtubatuba High Court in northern KwaZulu-Natal for the murder of 20-year-old Thandazile Mpunzi in August 2015. Three men he hired to kill Mpunzi are already behind bars after pleading guilty to the murder.

Delivering his judgement‚ Judge Themba Sishi said he was satisfied that the state had succeeded in proving Gumede’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Ön the facts presented before me I am satisfied that the evidence implicating the accused in this matter is sufficient to enable me to conclude that he acted in common purpose with the other conspirators that he had the necessary mens rea in conviction of murder‚” he said.

Gumede’s lawyer Advocate Andrew Matlamela pleaded with the court to be lenient with his client as he was HIV-positive‚ a first-time offender and had 10 children and 22 grandchildren. He also said his wife had died in 2010 and that the community had respect for him and he was also a pastor of 15 Zion church branches.

The state heavily relied on the evidence given by the two witnesses Mandla Mabuza and Lindokuhle Khumalo‚ who are both serving 20 years for the murder. The judge said their evidence was consistent throughout.

Gumede had promised to pay Mabuza‚ Khumalo and Siyabonga Gwala‚ who was also sentenced to 18 years for the murder‚ R25 000 in cash if they successfully executed the plan of killing Mpunzi. Gumede told them that he wanted a person with albinism as he wanted body parts of such a person to make muti.

He also instructed them to use muthi on themselves so that their plan would succeed.

The court heard how Gumede gave the three men must “put a silver coin into her mouth” and say some words which would make the victim powerless.

He also instructed them to kill the victim with their own hands by twisting her neck until she died. He also told them which body parts he wanted once they had killed her and these included her private parts and her hand.

When the plan to kill the victim as they had been instructed‚ one of the stabbed to death but they did not tell Gumede about it.

After the men had killed Mpunzi‚ Gumede gave them R200 which they used to drink the whole night to help them forget about what they had done.

Gumede also gave them other herbs to cleanse themselves for killing a person. The next day the body was dismembered and Gumede took the parts and put them in a bucket and others in plastic bags. The remains were buried in a shallow grave.

The blood-soaked clothes the woman was wearing on the day of the murder were also buried in a shallow grave near the home of one of the three men.

When the community suspected that the three men were behind Mpunzi’s murder‚ Gumede said should anything be found‚ he would render their being suspects disappear and be burnt out by sending thunder and lightning to the community members using muthi.

He gave them R200 to flee the area and some muthi to use as they were running away.