Their lifeless bodies were found naked, with no visible wounds on their bodies.
The five-year-old was found Mzwandile Zitho between the counter and the fridge in April 2020, and the bodies of of six-year-old Simphiwe Mgcina and eight-year-old Mpho Makondo were later found not too far from the tavern.
Finally, the families of these kids can start to be at peace after Palm Ridge magistrate's court acting judge Lillian van Wyk handed down a guilty verdict in the murder trial that's filled the Orange Farm community with fear.
One of the tavern owners, Pontsho Mohlanka, has been convicted in the murder cases of the three kids.
Mzwanele's grandma, Gogo Zitho, says opening old wounds was worth it in the end because she knows how her grandson died and the person who is behind his death will serve time in prison because she deserves it.
She says being in court every day as a pensioner took a lot for her but she is grateful that she didn’t do it alone because the details revealed during this trial showed her how evil and heartless her neighbour is.
“I am happy that she is found guilty and will get to be sentenced even though it won’t bring back my daughter’s child. When the judge said her evidence can’t stand in court because she was lying about a lot of things and blaming other people I was glad to see the law take its course. She also tried to defend herself and involve a guy from the same street where the body of one of the kids was dumped,” says Gogo Zitho.
She says Pontsho was ready to pin this on someone else and when they mentioned that there was a letter that she wrote for the police where she apologised for the death of Mzwandile because she is not the one who killed him but some guy who is also our neighbour.
“This guy was at court and he said that he doesn’t know anything, and now she blames her partner. All the evidence that was presented to the court and the fingerprints that were found in that letter belong to this woman, the phone that called the police belongs to her,” she says.
She says after the death of the two kids, they suspected that Mzwandile was killed by poison but that was ruled out in the court.
“She sent a message to the police telling them that Mzwandile was strangled by this guy she is trying to pin this to. The doctor said the child was strangled and evidence pointed to her because the message was sent before the result of Mzwandile’s death was out and her fingerprints were found not of the guy. She also mentioned another lady and said when the kids were being killed and her partner was the one behind it. But we found out that her partner was not at home in the morning until the afternoon and she had time to do all of this,” she says.
The prosecutor advocate, Gerhard Maritz, pleaded with the court to hand down three life sentences to murderer Pontsho Mohlanka during his closing statement on Friday.
Gogo Zitho says she deserves a harsh sentence because the pain she inflicted on the families cuts deep.
She also said she is thankful for the ward councilor, Makhosazane Ndlela, who hired transport for the family and the community members.
The sentencing will happen on 13 September at Palmridge Magistrate Court.