Applause erupted in the Western Cape High Court when murderer Simbarashe Dube, who attacked his ex-girlfriend with acid before tracking her to an abused women's shelter and killing her, was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Dube appeared unsurprised when Acting Judge Melanie Holderness gave him the harshest possible punishment on Thursday.

"The only appropriate sentence is long-term imprisonment which will have the effect of removing the accused from society," she said.

Dube was convicted in December for the murder of single mother Nikita Lewis, who had been living at the Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women and Children in Manenberg.

This after he threw acid in her face when she refused to move in with him.

Two months after the attack, Dube, a Zimbabwean national, stabbed Lewis in a shop near the shelter. She was stabbed more than 30 times.

He was also convicted of the serious assault of Nikita's mother, Bonita, and grandmother, Hilda, in their Kensington home and burglary for entering the house without their knowledge.

After proceedings on Thursday Bonita asked why there wasn't a harsher sentence for such "cruel, vicious and brutal" offenders.

Sentence a 'clear message'

"Why don't they have a sentence to punish them, just take their lives away?"

She believes her daughter got justice, as Dube would be "an old man [when he gets out]".  

Nikita's 8-year-old son, who his grandmother calls her "little darling", still thinks of his mother.

He told her not to "talk nonsense" when she told him his mother was an angel, she said on the steps of the High Court.

"I said, 'Really, she's an angel because Jesus took her away. He saw that man (Dube) was going to hurt her'."

While being led to the holding cells after hearing his fate, Dube was stared down by a court full of women who had been following the 13-month long trial.

"Voetsek," some women hissed from the gallery as he was handcuffed and led from the courtroom.

Saartjie Baartman Centre director Bernadine Bachar welcomed Dube's life sentence, saying Holderness "sent a clear message that gender-based violence will no longer be tolerated in SA".