South Africa: A 27-year-old man dubbed “killer dad” has been found guilty of the assault and murder of his three-month-old baby, whom he allegedly sacrificed for rituals.

Ivan Mahlangu, from KwaMhlanga in Mpumalanga, was found guilty on Wednesday at the Delmas High Court and is due to be sentenced on Friday.

Judge Thandoluhle Mankge found Mahlangu guilty on two counts, the murder of baby Nkanyiso and the assault of her mother Pearl Mtshweni, 22.

Nkanyiso was killed in January after Mahlangu invited her and Mtshweni to his home, where they were supposed to drive him to work. Mahlangu and Mtshweni had a romantic relationship but were not staying together.

Mtshweni found Mahlangu not ready to go to work and while he was bathing she decided to take a nap .

Mtshweni  previously told the court that when she woke up she realised the baby was not next to her and heard the baby coughing in the other bedroom.

Mankge said Mtshweni told the court that’s where she found Mahlangu, kneeling with the baby held high above his head and praying for the gods to receive the child.

Mankge said Mtshweni gave evidence that she found a big wooden chair, lit candles, a calabash with a R100 note underneath and smoke from burning herbs.

“Police corroborated that and also told the court that the room had been set up as if rituals had been performed. However, that remains a suspicion. The merits of the case have both direct and circumstantial evidence,” said Mankge.

Mankge said she found no compelling reason not to convict Mahlangu after verifying all facts, evidence and witnesses’ testimonies.

Mahlangu pleaded not guilty to all counts and told the court he was protecting himself against Mtshweni, who was attacking him and their child.

Mankge described Mahlangu’s evidence as fabricated.

“The accused gave the court evidence that was purely fabricated and tried to convince the court that the mother of the child had stabbed and killed the child under what he called a demonic behaviour.”

Mankge said the evidence of the police corroborated the mother’s testimony that she was a truthful and honest witness.

“There is no doubt that the accused is the aggressor and not the victim as he wants us to believe because neighbours and police have presented evidence that the woman was found screaming for help in a desperate attempt to draw attention for help,” the judge said.

Mankge said the child was killed by a direct pressure and penetration of a sharp object to the neck.

” According to the pathology evidence, a sharp object went into the baby’s neck with force and broke the bones, going through the back of her neck, causing severe loss of blood.”

Mankge said even after Mtshweni tried to fight and wrestle Mahlangu not to harm the baby, he did not stop because he had planned the murder for a while.

Mankge said Mahlangu locked the door and refused to let Mtshweni out because he wanted to finish his planned killing.

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