THE families of three victims who were “brutally slaughtered” at Sherwood Farm in Mooi River in 2010 poured out their grief in the high court in Pietermaritzburg yesterday.
Mzwandile Magubane (23) was convicted of the murders of Lorraine Karg (56), Hilda Linyane (46) and Zakius Mhlongo (75) during an attempted robbery at the farm on the night of July 21, 2010.
Karg and Mhlongo’s throats were cut, and Linyane was shot in the back while lying on her stomach.
The killers gained entry when the occupants left the farmhouse to fight a veld fire that has been deliberately started. But Lorraine Karg and some employees came back when her husband, Neville, asked her to fetch a bushknife.
Samuel Mhlongo — the eldest of Mhlongo’s seven children, said the death of his father felt “like something sharp inside your flesh that won’t come out”.
“It is a wound that you bandage up but it continues to fester … I will not be able to forget this incident to the end of my days,” he said.
Hlompho Linyane, Hilda’s widower, said her murder was “like having a leg ripped off so you can no longer walk”. He is now solely responsible for raising their three children.
Kita Olson, speaking for her father Neville, brother Brandon and sister Tori and their families, said they didn’t understand the senselessness of the murders. “Surely an elderly man and two women could not have been a threat to young men deliberately armed with knives and a gun,” she testified.
The murders had also affected the 70 staff members on their farm, their neighbours, the community and everyone involved in farming.
“It totally killed the dream we were living. There was a sense of disbelief that something like this could happen in our valley … It leaves us with shattered expectations and wounds that will not heal,” she said.
Olson said Hilda Linyane had a “lovely sense of humour and Zakius Mhlongo was a respected elderly Zulu man”.
“And my mom, Lorraine Karg, was more than my mom. She was my friend and confidant. She was my sounding board and my advisor. She was kind, caring and full of love,” she said as she choked back tears and family members wept in the gallery.
Olson described her “incomprehensible devastation” when they had found her mother lying dead, her throat cut, under a tree. “I carry with me the absolute tearing anguish in my dad’s voice as he collapsed at her side,” she said.
Acting Pietermaritzburg high court Judge Muzi Ncube said the murders were “savage, cruel and senseless”.
He found Magubane’s guilt was proved by his palm print found on a wall inside the house, his possession of remote controls that opened the farm gates and the Karg’s beach cottage, evidence of a truck driver and his assistant that placed him close to the scene of the farm on the night in question, and his own admissions and the pointing out he had made to police at the crime scene.
Magubane was the sole accused to stand trial to the end.
The prosecution was stopped against his co-accused, Nhlanhla Dladla (who worked at the Karg farm) earlier this year when another state witness reneged on statements he had made to police.
The third alleged perpetrator, Colin Maphalala, was shot dead at Mooi River police station after he allegedly lunged for a policeman’s firearm.
State advocate Dheelan Naidoo has called for life sentences to be imposed on Magubane for all three murders and lengthy jail terms for related charges.
Defence advocate Thabo Mbiko, however, urged the court to consider that Magubane was young and capable of reform.
According to statistics provided to court by Koos Marais of the KwaZulu-Natal Agricultural Union, there had been 682 farm attacks in the province since 2001 in which 111 people were murdered.
As a consequence, survivors or spouses of victims often packed up and moved away or immigrated.
Expertise and jobs were lost as a result and the national and local economy suffered, he said. Sentencing is expected tomorrow.