INFERTILITY, INFIDELITY, INHUMANITY

30 years for brute who chopped off wife's hands

Mwende satisfied with ruling; case caused an outpouring of outrage and benevolence but today she still suffers

In Summary

• Stephen Ngila, Mwende's husband, committed the crime in 2016, cutting off both her hands and hacking her with a panga. It made global headlines.

• He called her infertile and unfaithful. She said she was desperate to save their marriage and had sex with another man in hopes of conceiving. She has a child.

Jackline Mwende addressing the press outside Machakos High Court on February 9.
SATISFIED: Jackline Mwende addressing the press outside Machakos High Court on February 9.
Image: GEORGE OWITI

This is a tale of supposed infertility, a desperate brief affair to get pregnant and save a marriage, tragic consequences and finally some kind of  justice.

And a child by another man.

The Machakos High Court on Tuesday sentenced the man who in 2016 chopped off his wife Jackline Mwende’s hands to 30 years' imprisonment.

Stephen Ngila, 30, was found guilty of attempted murder of his wife in  Mwala subcounty.

Machakos resident magistrate Brenda Bartoo ruled, "The court having heard the accused person’s mitigation, noted the accused person was not remorseful for the offence he was convicted of. The court noted the offence was grave and the victim in her statement does not wish for any forgiveness."

Bartoo continued, “I therefore convict you of the offence of attempted murder ...You will serve imprisonment of 30 years.”

Ngila has 14 days to appeal. He had been earlier released on a Sh200,000 cash bail.

Mwende, who was in court, said she was satisfied with the court’s decision. Her child was not with her.

She has prosthetic hands surgically implanted in South Korea, which is famed for its plastic surgery. Good Samaritans came to her rescue.

But the hands don't help much.

“I am the one whose hands were chopped off by my husband. I thank  the  court. God will punish him more because I had hands but now I live with disability,” Mwende told reporters outside the courthouse as she sobbed.

She added, “I thank the court for its investigations. Some people talked ill about me following my predicament after my husband attacked me and chopped off my hands.

"May God bless all of them, both who talked well and those who supported me since I am alive. I won’t forget that God is the one who gives children.”

Mwende said her life changed after becoming disabled but added, "I thank God for both good and bad. I might have died.”

Stephen Ngila at Machakos High Court on February 9.
30 YEARS: Stephen Ngila at Machakos High Court on February 9.
Image: GEORGE OWITI

Mwende referred to her ex-husband as "inhuman", saying her parents fell sick after the horror of her attack.

Without hands, she couldn't do anything for herself but relied on others to do the simplest things. That's still the case.

“Everything is done for me, I was taken to Korea where I was given artificial hands that give pain at times.  I have a lot of problems, at times going to clinic is a problem since I don’t have money to pay medical bills," Mwende said.

Despite the prosthetic hands, her mother must do almost everything for her, including taking her to the toilet.

"I never expected my life to change like this, it pains me a lot,"Mwende said.

She said the family was suffering financial pressure and asked for help from well-wishers for a better livelihood.

Mwende had said she was slashed with a panga by her husband for not bearing children in their seven-year marriage. They frequently quarrelled over children.

According to another narrative, her infidelity was the reason for the attack. She has admitted this - infidelity in hopes of getting pregnant and saving her marriage.

She said the same on Tuesday on the courthouse steps.

Almost seven months after the attack, Mwende said her husband had spotted her with another man in Machakos town a day before he chopped off her hands.

"We had sought accommodation in Machakos town because I did not want to bring him to my matrimonial bed," she said earlier. They had been separated.

Mwende said after seeing the man - she called it "a one-night stand" - she returned home.

But her husband had set neighbours to spy on her. He then returned with a panga and assaulted her.

"It was on the Saturday of July 23. After spending time with the other manI  went back home where I lived alone because my husband had taken off three months earlier," Mwende said on the courthouse steps. She has said the same before.

"Neighbours told him of my trip to Machakos with the man on the Saturday I conceived," she told reporters.

She has indicated she was pregnant and sources tell the Star she has a child.

Mwende said she had an agreement with the man to only make her pregnant, then they would part ways.

"I wanted a child. I was desperate and it was that yearning ... and probably the Devil, too ... that made me stray out of my marriage. But I did it to save my marriage," she said.

(Edited by V. Graham)