A witch doctor horrified police when he started pulling out human body parts from his bag at the station.
Nino Mbatha was a practitioner of local traditional medicine and claimed he'd been forced to eat human flesh by three other men. He arrived at Estcourt police station for help but cops only believed him when they showed him his back.
Constable Ryan Ntshalintshali watched in horror as a hand was pulled out followed by a foul smell of decomposition.
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“It was at this point that I told him I was placing him under arrest on suspicion of murder,” he said, adding “He was shouting, 'I need the police’s help because I am tired of being forced to eat human flesh’.”
The case of Mbatha, a practitioner of local traditional medicine, or muti, was selected as one of the most shocking examples of cannibalism in recent years by African true crime podcast True Crime Daniel. After being cautioned by police, Mbatha led officers to his home.
Once they got there, the smell of rotting bodies removed any doubt that the suspect was telling the truth. One officer later testified: "I followed the accused into the room where he retrieved a small dish. Inside I saw something shaped like an ear and what appeared to be jaws. He then picked up another bucket that appeared to have intestines in it."
Mbatha, 33 at the time, told the horrified officers that he hadn’t been alone in his cannibalism, and he had been forced into it by two other men. One of them was a local butcher, which raised concerns that some of the body parts might have found their way into people's shopping baskets.
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Police asked locals who made missing persons reports to try to identify the bodies, but since most bodies had been dismembered and mostly decomposed, no one could. Except for one.
Zanele Hlatshwayo, a 24-year-old mum who had recently gone missing, was identified as one of the victims. It emerged in court that another man, Lungisani Magubane, had approached Mbatha to perform a muti ritual to help him have good luck. Mbatha suggested they kidnap a woman or child and kill them as the “ancestors insisted that blood needed to be spilled.”
Magubane and Mbatha were later convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing Zanele before dismembering her and eating parts of her body.
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Zanele’s grandmother identified the clothes she was wearing at the time of her disappearance, and much of the victim’s body was later recovered from an improvised grave. Local councillor Mthembeni Majola said: ”It was buried under big rocks, and we had to call a machine to remove the rocks.
"They admitted that they were waiting for the body parts to attract maggots. Apparently maggots collect money for them.”
There were two other defendants in the horrific cannibal trial. One of them, Sithembiso Sithole, 31, apparently killed himself in his cell while on remand and Khayelihle Lamula, 32, who was acquitted due to lack of evidence.
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