Man sentenced to life after stabbing girlfriend 19 times in front of her minor child

26 APRIL 2024

Man sentenced to life after stabbing girlfriend 19 times in front of her minor child

The Clanwilliam Regional Court has sentenced Esethu Cawe (26) to life imprisonment and declared him unfit to possess a firearm after he stabbed his girlfriend, Relebohile Ncephe 19 times using two knives which broke while butchering her in front of her minor child.

Cawe was convicted for breach of a protection order that was issued on 26 July 2022 in terms of which he was prohibited from assaulting, threatening, or verbally abusing Ncephe. He was also prohibited from entering her Khayelitsha, Clanwilliam residence, taking her property without her consent or damaging her property. He was also convicted of Ncephe’s murder after he stabbed her 19 times in front of her four-year-old daughter inside Govan Mbeki Street, Khayelitsha, Clanwilliam, home on 22 August 2022.

The court sentenced him to four years of direct imprisonment for breach of the protection order and life imprisonment for murder. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently and declared him unfit to possess a firearm. This sentence follows the state’s rejection of a plea and sentencing agreement with a proposed 18-year sentence offer from the accused and his legal team. The state rejected the offer based on the severity of the case and its long-term traumatizing impact on the deceased’s minor child. The State believed death was a result of extreme violence and physical abuse as contemplated in paragraph (b) of the definition of Domestic Violence in Section 1 of the Domestic Violence Act and the accused was in a domestic relationship as defined in Section 1 of that Act, with the victim.

The Regional Court Prosecutor, Mark Taylor told the court that the couple were cohabiting partners in an intimate relationship. When domestic violence started to occur, the deceased moved to her sister’s house and obtained an interim protection order which was served to the accused. On the day of the incident, 22 August 2022 he repeatedly called her after which she agreed to meet with him in the presence of her sister. Her four-year-old daughter also accompanied her. They started talking and the sister left to give them space to talk privately. During the discussion, the accused asked the deceased about her whereabouts the previous weekend, got angry when he did not get the answers he wanted, grabbed a knife, and stabbed her until the knife broke. He grabbed a bigger knife and stabbed her until that knife also broke. He left that knife on her body and was only taken out during a postmortem. This repeated stabbing happened in front of her 4-year-old child who ran outside screaming.

In his Section 112 of the Criminal Procedure Act plea, Cawe admitted that the protection order was still in operation at the time of entering the deceased’s residency and killing her. Arguing in aggravation of sentence, Taylor said murder was a scourge in the Clanwilliam and Cederberg society. He said respect for the criminal justice system needs to be maintained and the courts can ensure that by imposing appropriate sentences when required to do so. The convictions related to cold-blooded, callous, and heinous conduct on the part of the accused. It displayed an absolute flagrant disregard for the sanctity of human life and complete disrespect for the law and this court. His conduct involved a wanton disregard for the victim and a single-minded resolve on his part to commit the crimes. The conclusion is fortified by the fact that he set upon the deceased in a vicious, brutal, and unrelenting manner.

The stabbing happened four days after a protection order against Cawe was extended and was to be confirmed on 08 September 2022. Taylor argued that when court orders are violated, there must be consequences which will lead to communities losing faith in the criminal justice system. The court concurred and sentenced the accused.

The Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions, Advocate Nicolette Bell lauded the investigation and particularly the prosecution team who rejected an offer that was inconsiderate to the gruesome crime the accused committed, the victim, her minor child, and the rest of her family. She lamented the fact that Cawe’s sentencing for Gender-Based Violence and femicide was the second in a week. It is an indication of the challenge we are facing as a country in the fight against Gender-Based Violence and femicide. She is satisfied with the progress and cooperation that is made daily in the fight against the scourge of Gender-Based Violence and femicide.


Kind regards,

Eric Ntabazalila

Regional Communications Manager

Western Cape

Tel: (021) 487 7308Mobile: 073 062 1222







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