The horrific case of alleged cannibalism near Estcourt, in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, has gripped world headlines as details of the crime begin to surface… with five men arrested, and somewhere between a few and over 300 local residents (depending on which report you read) claiming they too unwittingly partook in the eating of human flesh.
The story has been splashed across the news from New York to New Delhi.
The decomposed and decapitated body of missing 25-year-old, Zanele Hlatshwayo, was found in the past week after a man claiming to be a traditional healer (witchdoctor) gave himself up to police a week ago. He claimed that he was “tired of eating human flesh”.
According to reports, police at first dismissed his statement, but immediately arrested him when he produced a hand and foot as evidence. He then took police to his home where body parts – believed to belong to Zanele, the mother of a two-year-old – were found in a suitcase. The remains are still to be identified, but are believed to belong to Zanele, who was the mother of a two-year-old. Eight human ears were in a cooking pot… believed to be “muti” for customers to use for protection against police bullets, amongst other things.
It’s alleged that some of the four accomplices of the so-called healer – Nino “Mkhonyovu” Mbatha (32) – were made to dig up graves at night as well. Traditional healing leaders have pointed out that Mkhonyovu was a fake healer, and that “ritual killings and the use of human tissue are not part of traditional healing”.
Zanele’s sister told reporters that in the days leading up to Zanele’s disappearance: “We were all scared because people’s bodies had been found in the area before with missing body parts.”
The five men appeared briefly at the Estcourt Magistrate Court on Monday, and abandoned their bail application. Armed guards were forced to protect the men from hundreds of angry villagers. They were charged with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Their next court appearance will be at the end of September.