Trigger warning: this article discusses gender-based violence, femicide, and murder
Finally, #JusticeForJayde is happening. Christopher Panayiotou and the co-accused have been found guilty of the murder of Jayde Panayiotou.
The case has been ongoing since Panayiotou became a suspect after the murder of his wife two years ago: we’ve been covering the story ever since. Businessman Panayiotou hired a group of men to kidnap and kill his wife, teacher Jayde Panayiotou, in April 2015. Two of Panayiotou’s accomplices, Sinethemba Nenenmbe and Zolani Sibeko, have also been convicted of murder. Luthando Siyoni, the mediator between Panayiotou and the hitmen, turned state witness. The triggerman, Sizwezakhe Vumazonke, died in prison awaiting trial.
The crucial evidence that secured a guilty verdict
A recorded conversation between Panayiotou and Sinyoni implicated both parties in the orchestrated kidnapping and killing of Jayde Panayiotou. The recording served as the crucial evidence that proved the case for murder beyond reasonable doubt.
Panayioutou described the events of Jayde’s murder in the tape played in court, ‘You need to go to Jeffreys Bay and lie down low a bit and if anyone asks me, I will say you went to East London. The boys made it big and I told you to let them do it outside the house. They didn’t take the watch or the rings.’ The recording suggested that the murder was meant to look like a robbery gone wrong. ‘They were supposed to do it outside the house,’ said Panayiotou. ‘Now, this is a murder thing instead of just robbery outside the house.’ Panayiotou also asked Siyoni what he had told the police when he spoke to them.
In the recording, Panayiotou proceeded to tell Siyoni he could ‘not be giving money out all the time’ as he was a suspect in the case, but then gave him about R5 000.
The New Age reported that Jayde was abducted by Nenenmbe and Sibeko from outside her Kabega Park home in Port Elizabeth. The kidnapping happened while Jayde was waiting for a lift to Riebeek College Girls’ High School in Uitenhage. She was shot three times and found dead in a field outside KwaNobuhle on 22 April.
The men were arrested in May 2015 and the verdict was given yesterday by Judge Dayalin Chetty in the Port Elizabeth High Court. Judge Chetty found Panayiotou and the co-accused guilty of multiple charges including co-conspiracy, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and murder.
Femicide – a national epidemic
Femicide and intimate partner abuse in South Africa is not a unique phenomenon. Rather, it’s symptomatic of the misogyny and brutality caused by a culture of gender-based violence.
With the likes of Oscar Pistorious and Panayiotou convicted of their crimes, the lives of murdered Jayde Panayiotou and Reeva Steenkamp can be remembered knowing their killers were brought to justice. But there is a long, terrible list of women who show that we still aren’t doing enough to stamp out femicide: Karabo Mokoena, Anene Booysen, Letty Wapad and countless women who remain anonymous.
According to the Minister of Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, South Africa has a femicide rate five times higher than the global rate. The SAPS Crime Stats for 2017 recorded a total of 14 333 murders between December 2016 and April 2017. Of those murders, 1 713 victims were women – that over just six months. Intimate femicide is the murder of women by a ‘current or ex-husband or boyfriend, same-sex partner or a rejected would-be lover.’
Even more concerning is the fact that the South African Police Service (SAPS) does not record intimate-partner violence. According to Major-General Sally de Beer of SAPS, this is because it is ‘not a legally defined crime’. We have no words.
Jayde Panayiotou’s family has received a small but significant amount of justice with this guilty verdict. It is not enough to bring her back. And it is not enough to put an end to the violence. But it is a step in the right direction.