A community meeting following the arrest of four Estcourt men for allegedly killing a person and eating human flesh saw hundreds of residents allegedly confess to having eaten human body parts procured from one of the accused.
The four men, Nino Mbatha (32), Sthembiso Sithole (31), Lindokuhle Masondo (32) and Lungisani Magubane (30), appeared in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Monday on charges of murder and conspiracy.
This after one of the four men allegedly walked into the Estcourt police station on Friday, holding human body parts and confessed to being “tired of eating human flesh”. When he was questioned, he produced part of a human leg and a hand. Further investigation led police to a house in the Rensburgdrift area in Estcourt where they were met with a foul smell, and more human remains were found.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said on Friday that one of the accused, also an nyanga (traditional healer), was arrested in Amangwe area where more body parts were found.
Hundreds of outraged Estcourt locals gathered outside the magistrate’s court on Monday morning, armed with cameras and cellphones in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the four men.
With police guarding the entrance to the court, residents were warned to stay back as the men were loaded into a police van after their court appearance and taken into police custody until their formal bail application on August 28.
Later, ward councillor Mthembeni Majola, who held a meeting at the Esigodlweni community hall on Monday morning, said that around 300 residents had confessed to visiting Mbatha, an nyanga, and knowingly eating human flesh that he gave to them.
He said that there were around 700 people at the meeting where about 300 residents confessed to allegedly knowing Mbatha had human flesh and allegedly confessed to eating it.
He said a community member, who had been very close to Mbatha, had had a falling out with the nyanga.
Majola alleged that the matter was not just limited to Estcourt and that the nyanga had links across the Uthukela area.
Majola alleged that Mbatha had been a practising nyanga in Ladysmith before he fled to Rensburgdrift earlier this year as the Ladysmith community had allegedly attacked and killed another nyanga in the area, however, this could not be confirmed.
“We don’t know what to do or who to trust,” said Majola.
‘People we know and live with have now confessed to eating this woman’
“This has happened within our community. Families, people we know and live with have now confessed to eating this woman,” he said.
He added that community members had also allegedly confessed to digging up graves under Mbatha’s orders, and giving Mbatha the bones.
Majola said the community had said at the meeting that the nyanga had told them that digging up the graves would make them strong and protect them from harm and that bringing him the bones would bring them wealth in the future.
Colonel Mbhele said that the provincial Occult-Related Crime Unit was investigating the matter.
She said police could not comment further on the matter, due to the sensitivity of the case.