One of the people implicated in the murder of Emalahleni teenager, Gabisile Shabane and her cousin, Nkosikhona Ngwenya has died before going on trial. On what would have been the start of his trial with three co-accused, the high court sitting at the Middelburg magistrate’s court was told recently that Mfanisibili Muti Gamedze had died.
“There was a fourth accused who we were hoping and praying we could extradite from Swaziland. But his counsel has since indicated that he passed on. He is the fourth accused in the matter,” said prosecutor Ntsika Mpolweni.
The circumstances surrounding Gamedze’s death were not immediately disclosed but are expected to be addressed during the trial. Only two of the remaining three accused stood in the dock on Monday. Mpolweni told the court that the vehicle which had been transporting Thokozani Msibi to court from Kgosi Mampuru prison in Pretoria had broken down about 40km from court.
Proceedings were postponed in his absence, with a new trial start date set for Wednesday. Msibi, a traditional healer, was believed to be the mastermind behind the killing of Shabane. Some of her body parts were found at his home. Like Gamedze, he was originally from Swaziland but has since resided and practised in Emalahleni.
The other accused are Knowledge Wezi Mhlanga and Mthobisi Brilliant Mkhize, both from Emalahleni. This matter has already seen two men jailed. The first was Sabelo Khubeka. At the height of the search for Shabane and her nephew, after their disappearance in 2018, Khubeka had lied about having knowledge of the whereabouts of the children. He tried to extort money from their family as he demanded a ransom.
At the time, Brig Leonard Hlathi said a team investigating the matter turned their focus to tracking down Khubeka who was traced to Vosloorus in Gauteng. He was arrested and upon questioning found to have no clue about the missing children. He was jailed for five years. The second is Josiah Thubane, a qualified teacher-turned-struggling businessman. Thubane, who claimed to be haunted by his deeds, confessed to his part in killing Shabane, admitting it was a muti killing.
He pleaded guilty on all charges including two counts of premeditated murder, two counts of kidnapping, housebreaking with intent to commit murder and one count of violation of a corpse. He was handed two life terms for the killings.
He clarified that Ngwenya was an unintentional casualty in the matter. The 15-month-old was mistaken for another child in Shabane’s home who also had albinism. Once they had noticed their error in taking Ngwenya, he was dumped over a bridge on the N4 where he drowned in a river.
The state’s case is that Thubane had been introduced to the so-called powerful muti-man Msibi by Mhlanga, along with his business partner. Thubane and his business partner were accompanied by Mhlanga to go for a consultation with Msibi. At the time, Gamedze was also present.
In his confession, Thubane told the court he was advised by Msibi to bring him a person with albinism to boost his struggling rental property business. Msibi had known of Gabisile and another child living in the same home who had albinism and apparently informed them of this.
Thubane, Mhlanga, Msibi and Gamedze later met to hash out and execute the kidnapping plan. They broke into the Shabane household in Hlalanikahle in January 2018, pointed firearms at the family and fled with the children. Gabisile’s body was later found in a shallow grave in Cullinan, Pretoria. Several of her body parts, including her genitals, heart, liver and left arm had been dismembered.
Delivering her judgment back in 2019, judge Segopotje Mphahlele said the crimes were clearly planned.
“He admitted that when they finally found the children, he … knew his dream of having a flourishing business was about to be realised,” she said of Thubane.
Mphahlele said the children had suffered a gruesome death at the hands of unscrupulous men who were blinded by greed and the love of money.
“People living with albinism face discrimination and stigma. They face a more severe form of violence. The attacks have several root causes, including ignorance, long-standing stigma and the most disgusting is the harmful practices emanating from manifestations in some beliefs in witchcraft,” ruled Mphahlele.
On counts of housebreaking and kidnapping, Thubane was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on each. On the double murder charges, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for each and to three years for possession of a firearm.
The now deceased Gamedze had also played in integral part in Shabane’s killing. She had been kept at his home after her kidnapping and it is believed that it was he, Msibi and another person, Thulani Thobela, who butchered the girl. Thobela turned state witness after his arrest.
The state says that after Shabane was dismembered and buried, Msibi had performed rituals on Mhlanga, Mkhize — their driver, Thubane and his business partner Fantjie Khumalo. Mkhize was alleged to have been brought on board after Shabane’s kidnapping.
Days later, Msibi, Gamedze and another national from Eswatini returned to the plot where Shabane’s body was buried in a shallow grave. This time, they removed her head and arms and reburied her in the same grave.
After an extensive search, Shabane and Ngwenya’s bodies were found on February 20 2018. Ngwenya’s body had already decomposed in the water. The postmortem report said: “no anatomical cause of death found”.
With Shabane, her postmortem report concluded “cannot [be] determined” because of her missing organs.