Vlakfontein residents up in arms after man accused of seven murders walks free

2019-06-07 18:06

Residents of Vlakfontein in Johannesburg took to the streets in protest on Friday after the State withdrew charges against murder accused Fita Khupe. 

Khupe, who was accused of murdering seven members of the Khoza family in 2018, walked out of the Lenasia Regional Court a free man on Friday. 

This after co-accused Ernest Mabaso committed suicide in a police cell in January, after being transferred to the Cape Town Central police station.

On October 29, 2018, police found the buried bodies of three women and four children at a house in Vlakfontein after neighbours noticed a stench coming from the property.

No evidence

In a statement issued on Friday, National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Mjonodwana said the decision to withdraw the charges against Khupe was based on the fact that there was no evidence linking him to the crime except for a confession made by Mabaso, which cannot be used in court.

The DNA evidence taken from the crime scene also excluded Khupe. 

"The NPA has therefore decided to refer the matter to a magistrate to conduct an inquest to establish the circumstances surrounding the death of the Khoza family.

"Subsequent to its decision not to proceed, the prosecution held a meeting with some family members of the deceased to explain the motivation for the decision," she said.

On Friday, protesters, some clad in ANC T-shirts and others in school uniforms, barricaded roads with rocks and burning tyres. 

"We believe that the justice system is failing because on the same day when we discovered the murders, Fifi Khupe was among us and we couldn't attack him for what he had done. But as members of the ANC and of the community we decided to let the police handle the matter," said resident Thembani Sangweni. 

The police and Johannesburg Metro Police Department clashed with protesters after they prevented them from burning more tyres. 

"Shoot us, shoot us ..." protesters shouted as they were being stopped. 

Sangweni said, going forward, they would not wait for the police if there was a similar issue because the law was failing them. 

She added that they wanted answers as to why the matter was heard on Friday and not June 13, as they had expected. 

"Minister of Justice Ronald Lamola must come here and explain what happened with this case. He must come and fix this because he is the one saying that we must not take the law into our own hands or else we will." 


The community has vowed to continue with the protest until they are provided with proper answers. 

"They must put this case back on the court roll. If this man [Khupe] is free, they must give reasons why they say there is no case. According to us, he is guilty because there is no way you can be in a room with a smell and not know anything," said Sangweni. 

The community also questioned the sudden death of Mabaso, adding that they were not feeling safe because they believed that he was involved in the murders. 

"On Monday, we are going to the court in Lenasia. No cases will be heard on Monday before we get answers," said Thulani Mbatha of the ANC Youth League. 

He added that there were a lot of discrepancies with regards to Mabaso’s death, questioning why exactly he was taken to Cape Town and how it came about that he was able to hang himself in custody. 

"There is something wrong with our justice system. We want to know what is happening with this case," Mbatha said.

'What happened today is unexpected'

Ward 122 councillor Sithembiso Zungu said he does not blame residents for reacting the way they did because he also believed that the law had failed the family and community as a whole. "What happened today [in court] was unexpected. I don't think we will leave it hanging. It's a matter of engaging further and moving forward."

However, Lamola's spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said prosecutorial matters were for the National Prosecuting Authority.

"Any queries of this nature should be handled by the NPA," he said.

Meanwhile, police told News24 that the protest had now calmed, adding that at least "200 members of the community have now moved out from the road". "Traffic is now flowing while police will continue to monitor the area," Police Spokesperspon Captain Mavela Masondo said.

Read more on:    fita khupe  |  johannesburg  |  crime

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