Insanity, inheritance, revenge could be behind Vlakfontein mass murders
Lawyers defending the two men accused of the bloody mass murder of seven family members from Vlakfontein, south of Johannesburg, have presented possible reasons why the Khozas were killed.
Cross-examining investigating officer Banele Ndlovu during the men’s bail application in the Protea Magistrate’s Court in Soweto on Thursday, the lawyers presented scenarios of mental instability, inheritance and revenge as possible reasons for the slayings.
Gerhard Landman, representing 61-year-old Fita Khupe, told the court only one family member, Sne Khoza, survived.
At the time of the murders in October 2018, Khupe’s co-accused in the matter, a man who identified himself to the family as "Sibusiso Khoza", had given Sne money to travel to KwaZulu-Natal to visit relatives.
"Khoza's" real name cannot be revealed as he is facing several rape charges, to which he has not yet pleaded.
Landman put it to Ndlovu that Sne could have plotted with Sibusiso to kill the family so she could be the sole beneficiary of the house. The deal could have been, he said, that she would then sell the house and give a portion of the acquired funds to him.
Ndlovu said she was not sure whether Sne had since returned from KZN.
Landman said another possibility was that "Khoza" was mentally ill and needed to be sent for mental observation.
"The fact that he can commit the offences in the way that he did ... as a sane person, there is no way that one could commit the crimes that he did," Landman added.
As he spoke, "Khoza" looked at him, emotionless, with his hands placed on his thighs.
"It is true that when you had done something this bad, it does cross one’s mind that perhaps the person who has committed the crime has something wrong in his head," Ndlovu replied to Landman.
Landman said another scenario was that when "Khoza" was arrested between 2015 and 2018 this year for theft of a prison motor vehicle, he could have come across Bonginkosi Khoza, a relative of the murdered family, who was behind bars.
"Bonginkosi is in custody, serving a sentence for murder and for doing bad things to the family. They [Bonginkosi and Sibusiso] struck a deal for him to murder the family," Landman said.
While Ndlovu did not comment on whether this was a possibility, the court requested that he verify who Bonginkosi was and who he was alleged to have murdered.
Meanwhile, "Khoza's" lawyer, Makau Sekgatja, referred the court to a statement that Khupe made to police shortly after the bodies were recovered.
Khupe had been in a longstanding relationship with one of the murdered women.
"In Khupe’s statement, he indicates that he had a hand in building the house. The statement was made by Khupe prior to his arrest on October 31. Do you agree that by virtue of that, he could feel entitled to [the house]?" Sekgatja asked Ndlovu.
"The house is not in his name. So don’t you think this gives motive so that he can inherit the property?" he continued.
"That is possible," Ndlovu replied.
Sekgatja said there was no motive for his client to commit the crimes other than that he was threatened. "Khoza", 27, has said he was essentially blackmailed to commit the murders.
The court heard previously that "Khoza" had wangled his way into the family by alleging he was a long-lost relative. He had befriended Sne on Facebook.
In an affidavit submitted during his bail application, "Khoza" claimed to have been kidnapped and told of the plan to kill the Khoza family in 2015. He said he was forced to perform the deed by Khupe and a gang linked to him.
"Khoza" has admitted to striking some of the relatives with hammers, strangling others and raping three of them. He has, however, indicated that he intends to plead not guilty to the crimes, as he claims he was forced to carry them out.
The bodies of the seven were found on October 29 2018 after neighbours complained of a stench coming from the house. The three adults and four children had been buried in the house.
Khupe and "Khoza's" bail application continues next week, when a final witness is expected to be called.