Vlakfontein murder trial: second accused will have to wait for bail application

Court wants to see death certificate for Ernest Mabaso

24 January 2019 - 12:25 By NALEDI SHANGE and NOMAHLUBI JORDAAN
Ernest Mabaso, seen left, and co-accused Fita Khupe. FIle photo.
Ernest Mabaso, seen left, and co-accused Fita Khupe. FIle photo.
Image: TANKISO MAKHETHA

The sole surviving suspect standing trial for the murder of the seven Vlakfontein Khoza family members will have to wait until next week for his bail application to start.

This after the Protea magistrate's court heard on Thursday that 61-year-old Fita Khupe's co-accused, Ernest Mabaso, had committed suicide.

Proceedings were postponed to next Tuesday for the court to obtain his death certificate.

A bail hearing had been scheduled for today. However, earlier in the morning the news broke that Mabaso had died on January 18. He allegedly hung himself in a police cell in Cape Town. The circumstances are under investigation by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

Khupe had been involved in a romantic relationship with one of the women who were found killed and buried under heaps of sand in their home in October last year.

He was arrested after Mabaso, who admitted to hammering and raping some of the victims,  said he was the mastermind behind the plot.

Mabaso had told the court that Khupe had threatened to kill him if he did not carry out the crime.

He claimed that Khupe was working with people who had kidnapped and terrorised him several years ago.

He alleged that they had forced him to infiltrate the Khoza family by pretending to be a long-lost relative.

After gaining the trust of the family, he claimed to have been ordered to kill the women and children.

Khupe denied all of Mabaso's claims.

In their very first court appearance last year, Mabaso  said he was scared of Khupe, alleging that he had once again threatened him.

At the time, the court said while there was no evidence of the threats, it would order that Mabaso and Khupe be detained seperately.

Mabaso, who had initially introduced himself to the Khoza family as Sibusiso Khoza, was reported to have hung himself in Cape Town earlier this month.

The Gauteng community safety department has confirmed the allegations.

“According to a report we received from the police, Mr Mabaso committed suicide on January 18 while he was in police custody in Cape Town,” said community safety spokesperson Ofentse Morwane on Thursday.

He said Mabaso was taken to Cape Town as part of the police investigation as they were following leads.

Mabaso’s lawyer, Makau Sekgatja, said he was told this week that his client was booked out when he wanted to consult him.

"I tried to arrange a consultation with him and was told that he was booked out. I hear from the corridors that he was taken to Cape Town," Sekgatja said.

Mabaso was due to appear in court on Thursday for his and Khupe's scheduled bail application.

Initially Mabaso  said he did not want to apply for bail. He made a sudden U-turn on this, delivering a damning statement which detailed how the murders were carried out.

In his affidavit, Mabaso had acknowledged raping three of the Khoza family members but stated that he intended to plead not guilty to all charges.

During one of the proceedings in December, proceedings were postponed after Mabaso claimed to have been severely ill.

Sekgatja said the 27-year-old complained of body pains and collapsed. He was treated at a prison hospital but a doctor later found he was fit to attend proceedings and he was brought to court.

The gruesome killing of the Khoza family shook the Vlakfontein community in the south of Johannesburg.

A stench at the house caused neighbours to alert police, leading to the shocking discovery. They found the badly decomposed bodies of seven people — three women and four children — buried under a pile of sand in a bedroom in the house. The children were aged between two and 11.


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