R27m insurance murder plot: Pastor, wife, hitman to spend a combined 335 years in prison

Pastor Melisizwe Monqo, his wife Siphosihle Pamba and his cousin, the hitman, Phumlani Qhusheka, were handed hefty sentences for the brutal 2018 murder of Hlompo Koloi on Friday, 19 November, in the Thembalethu, George High Court in the Western Cape.

PASTOR LIFE INSURANCE PLOT

Koloi was murdered by the accused because Monqo and his wife took out several life insurance policies on behalf of other people, including church members, his ex-lover and the mother of his child, without their knowledge with the sole intent to benefit from the payouts by killing them.

“Life insurance policies were taken on behalf of Nomfundiso Booi, Anelisa Xhotyeni, Bulelwa Sihawu, and Koloi,” said Eric Ntabazalila, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson in the Western Cape.

The NPA said the unsuspecting victims were insured with Assupol, Liberty Life, Outsurance, 1 Life Insurance, Clientel Life and Discovery. The accused stood to receive approximately R26,9 million from the policies.

Pastor Melisizwe Monqo. Photo: Supplied

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5 JULY 2018

Ntabazalila said the accused were getting away with their devious plot until 5 July 2018 when a fisherman on his way to Herolds Bay, Francois Gerber, discovered Koloi’s body lying on the side of the Voëlklip gravel road.

“He contacted the police who started their investigation on why a body of a smartly dressed young woman lay motionless on the side of a deserted gravel road,” said the NPA spokesperson.

Monqo and Pamba were questioned shortly after the discovery and they gave the investigating officer Thembekile Matwa a false statement on 11 July 2018.

Monqo, Pamba and Qhusheka were arrested between 7 and 20 July, said Ntabazalila.

Matwa’s investigation revealed that the accused lured Koloi, who was unemployed at the time, to her death with a fake job opportunity.

Koloi believed she had a job interview and even borrowed money from friends for taxi fare to make it to the appointment.

“Her boyfriend and her brother accompanied her to the hiking spot at Thembalethu bridge, George,” said Ntabazalila.

She was picked up by a silver-grey sedan driven by Monqo and Qhusheka was sitting in the back. A few hours later, her dead body was found with seven stab wounds and a slit throat.

Phumlani Qhusheka. Photo: Supplied.

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SIMILAR CASES

The police investigation revealed that the accused were involved in similar cases committed in and around Grahamstown, Port Elizabeth, Bisho, Mthatha and the Western Cape.

“Senior State Advocate, Evadne Kortje obtained a centralisation certificate from the National Director of Public Prosecutions in order to prosecute the case in the Western Cape,” said Ntabazalila.

Advocate Kortje called 36 witnesses, including three Section 204 witnesses, that implicated the accused trio in the crimes. Section 204 witnesses who may have been part of the crime testifying against others.

Monqo’s murderous ways were laid bare in February 2021, when two witnesses told the court how the pastor attempted to kill Nomfundiso Booi at least three times. One of the state witnesses was a hitman contracted to help kill Booi, the other was a 20-year-old driver from his church, God’s Work Ministries, according to the George Herald.

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SENTENCING: PASTOR, HITMAN SHOW NO REMORSE

The 32-year-old pastor was sentenced to life and 252 years and three years imprisonment by Judge Tashwell Papier. He was convicted of Koloi’s murder, robbery with aggravating circumstances, assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, housebreaking with intent to commit murder, illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of ammunition and 13 counts of fraud.

Qhusheka, 31, was sentenced to life and 63 years imprisonment. The NPA said the hitman and pastor never showed remorse throughout the trial. Koloi’s cellphone was found in Qhusheka’s possession and her DNA was found on his bloodied clothes. Despite this, he maintained his innocence.

Pamba, 26,  was convicted on 24 counts – similar to her husband – and sentenced to an effective 20 years in jail.

Judge Papier said he deviated from the prescribed minimum sentences for her because she was also a victim – she was abused by Monqo and forced to participate in the crimes.

Siphosihle Pamba. Photo: Supplied.

“[The Judge] also remarked that Pamba showed remorse, apologised to God, to the family of Koloi and society,” said Ntabazalila.

Pamba told the court that she deserved to die for the crimes she committed. She did not participate in the murder of the deceased.

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PRAISE FOR NPA AND INVESTIGATING OFFICER

Advocate Nicolette Bell, the Acting Director of Public Prosecutions in the province, commended Advocate Kortje and Sergeant Matwa for their work over the last three years and four months.

Hlopo Koloi’s mother thanked members of the community who supported her during the trial and the death of her daughter. Photo: Supplied.

“Sergeant Matwa crisscrossed two provinces collecting evidence, consulting witnesses and victims and brought all that evidence to Advocate Kortje.

“She managed to put together a complicated case, worked with emotional witnesses and successfully proved her case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“This is an exhibition that our coordinated approach to dealing with crimes are paying off and resulting in long sentences,” said Bell.

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