Cannibal case: Guilty as charged

2018-12-12 14:28
Nino Mbatha (front) with Lungisani Magubane (centre) and Khayelihle Lamula stood trial for the murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo whose body was chopped up. Mbatha and Magubane have been convicted of the murder while Lamula was acquitted.

Nino Mbatha (front) with Lungisani Magubane (centre) and Khayelihle Lamula stood trial for the murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo whose body was chopped up. Mbatha and Magubane have been convicted of the murder while Lamula was acquitted. (Ian Carbutt)

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The mastermind behind the killing of a woman for her body parts and one of his sidekicks were on Tuesday convicted in the Pietermaritzburg high court. 

A third person, Khayelihle Lamula, who also stood trial with Nino Mbatha and Lungisani Magubane was acquitted as there was not enough evidence against him.

All three men were charged with the murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo in Estcourt last year.

Mbatha, a traditional healer, also faced a charge of being in possession of her body parts but was acquitted of that. Judge Peter Olsen found that this was a duplication of the murder charge because Hlatshwayo was killed for her body parts.

Mbatha was also acquitted of a charge relating to him “dealing” with her body parts for allegedly giving them to someone else. Judge Olsen found there was insufficient evidence on this charge.

The judge said it is a “remarkable” story how the murder became known to police.

Mbatha had walked into the Estcourt police station community centre carrying a small bag and a horn usually seen with traditional healers, he said.

Mbatha announced that he needed police assistance because he was “tired” of eating “human flesh”. The first policeman called another to hear what was being said.

Judge Olsen said neither of the policemen believed him as he appeared to be mentally unstable. Due to Mbatha’s revelations being self-incriminatory, his rights were read out to him.

But Mbatha persisted with his story and said the police should “hurry up or those detaining him will escape”.

He then produced a human hand and leg from his bag. Community members present at the station fled, he said.

The officers called their superior and about ten officers took Mbatha to his house. The judge added that he then pointed to his home where police found more body parts.

“Photos of the room depicted a disgusting mess,” the judge said.

The window had no burglar guards and the door was not locked which indicated that Mbatha was not held captive. He then told police about a man called “Mchunu”.

On being questioned, Mchunu told the officers that Magubane might be involved in Mbatha’s “dirty business” and he was arrested.

The state’s evidence against Mbatha was overwhelming, said the judge.

He commented on Mbatha confessing to police about the murder and later denying everything.

“What happened in this case is truly awful. It was the stuff of nightmares. How one would react in such circumstances is unpredictable. One may well want to unburden oneself of guilt, but later have second thoughts,” said the judge.

Of Magubane, the judge said he made a statement about his role. It was very detailed and had to have been made by someone involved in the murder. Also, Magubane claimed he was made to sign blank documents therefore his signature appeared throughout the statement. The judge said that Magubane’s signature was above all the mistakes in the statement. Somebody who fabricated the statement would not have gone through the trouble to make mistakes and sign above them.

In addition, police officers heard Magubane talk to Mbatha about the murder while they were together in a police cell.

Lamula on the other hand made a statement which did incriminate him in the murder. All he said was that he drove a woman and the men to Smith’s farm. He later heard the woman was killed.

His attorney Lauren Marais had argued that the state did not prove that this woman was Hlatshwayo.

The judge said there was no evidence that the place where the body was found was the same farm. Aside from the statement, there was no other evidence against him to sustain a conviction.

Sentencing is expected on Wednesday.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg
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