Nolubabalo Nomsuka is planning to sue for compensation for her almost six years of wrongful imprisonment in South Africa. In November 2017 she was acquitted on appeal of murder in the death of her baby who died at birth.
In December 2011 Nomsuka was 23 and living at the Wema Hostel, near Lamontville, several miles south of Durban, South Africa. Nomsuka was in Grade 11 in school, and she had a two-year-old daughter, Okuhle.
Nomsuka called a friend to come help when she went into labor in the eighth month of her pregnancy. Before the friend arrived she gave birth to her son. He was dead at birth or died moments afterward. When her friend and neighbors arrived they accused her of strangling her baby and called the police.
The newborns autopsy showed no signs its death was due to anything other than natural causes, and there was no sign of strangulation. Nomsuka was nevertheless charged with murder and arrested in March 2012. She was held in custody pending her trial.
During Nomsuka’s 2012 trial the medical evidence by the pathologist who conducted her newborn’s autopsy established there was no sign of strangulation or a cause of death other than natural. That testimony was consistent with the autopsy report that the infant’s death was not a homicide.
Nomsuka denied doing anything to cause her child’s death.
In finding Nomsuka guilty the trial magistrate disregarded the autopsy report and the expert testimony of the pathologist who conducted the autopsy. Instead the judge relied on the testimony of the witnesses who arrived after the baby’s birth that they believe she strangled it.
The magistrate sentenced her to life in prison. The magistrate later reduced her sentence to 20 years on the compassionate ground that the unmarried Nomsuka had a young daughter.
In 2013, Legal Aid lawyers assisted Nomsuka in filing an appeal of her conviction and sentence. Her appeal argued the trial judge erred in finding her guilty because the prosecution’s expert evidence established she had been convicted of a murder that didn’t occur, since her infant died from natural causes.
In November 2017 a hearing was held on Nomsuka’s appeal.
After the hearing a panel of Durban High Court judges unanimously ruled the prosecution failed to introduce sufficient evidence to prove Nomsuka’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt and ordered her acquittal. The High Court judges excoriated the trial magistrate for disregarding the unrebutted medical testimony by the experienced pathologist who conducted the baby’s post-mortem examination that there was no sign of strangulation, or that the baby died from anything other than natural causes.
Nomsuka, now 29, was immediately released after five years and eight months in custody. She was reunited with her now eight-year-old daughter Okuhle. She had been taken care of by Nomsuka’s grandmother, because Nomsuka’s parents had died before her arrest.
After her release Nomsuka told a reporter: “I don’t know what would have happened to my daughter had my grandmother not been there.” She said of her arrest: “It is one of the most painful things I have ever experienced. There I was, mourning my son and they wanted me arrested for something I did not do.” She also said that with her release she would be able to perform a traditional naming ceremony to allow her son’s soul to rest in peace.
In January 2018 it was reported Nomsuka is planning to file a wrongful imprisonment lawsuit against South Africa’s Department of Justice for compensation.
While in prison Nomsuka graduated from secondary school, and was half-way through her studies to get a business degree. She is planning to complete the classes necessary to get her degree.