Cannibal case 'makes us look primitive'
Mayor's dismayed words as infamous Estcourt trial begins
Allegations of cannibalism in Estcourt have set the normally quiet KwaZulu-Natal Midlands town back several decades, its mayor, Jabu Mbhele, said on Thursday.
She was speaking after seven men appeared in court on Thursday on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of human body parts.
The grisly story broke in August when alleged traditional healer Nino Mbatha walked into the Estcourt police station to report that he was in possession of body parts and was tired of being forced to eat human flesh. The incident opened a can of worms as Mbatha led police to his home in Estcourt, where more body parts were recovered. The case was soon taken over by the police's occult crime unit.
Initially five men appeared in court in August, but a sixth man was arrested about three weeks ago and a seventh arrested on the morning of the case.
Mbhele cut a forlorn figure in court on Thursday. She tucked herself away on the left-hand side of the courtroom. But she glanced often at the accused - Nino Mbatha, 32, Lungisani Magubane, 30, Sithembiso Doctor Sithole, 31, Lindokuhle Masondo, 32, Khayelihle Lamula, 32, Wiseman Madlala, 28 and Sazi Ndlovu, 31.
The matter was adjourned to October 12 because one of the men intended pleading guilty, meaning the case could be escalated to the High Court. The men were remanded.
Although Mbhele was distraught at what the case had done to the town's image, she was optimistic it could turn the corner through social dialogues and prayers.
"It's difficult. Any municipality is about its people, social cohesion and security, so incidents like these make us look primitive," she said.