A desperately poor man bludgeoned three teenage orphans and a three-day-old baby to death with a hammer because he thought they were getting his child's food parcels.
The alleged murderer then torched their humble home - a room - in Seven Oaks near Greytown in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
Zoleka Mchunu, 18, her three-day-old baby Sphumelele, her cousin Thobile Mbhele, 15, and her best friend Bongiwe Ndlovu, 14, were asleep when they were attacked on Monday.
The alleged murderer was married to Mchunu's late sister and had a child with her last year.
Social workers took the child after the woman's death because the family was poor, a neighbour and councillor, Mzikayifani Ndlovu, said.
He said that the man had complained to him that the orphans were living off food parcels that he felt he should have been getting "because the food parcels belonged to his child".
"He blamed the orphans for giving his child away to the social workers without his consent," Ndlovu said.
"He said they did this to get food parcels. He was especially angry about seven tins of canned beans, which he was certain they got in the name of his child. He warned that someone was going to die."
Ndlovu said the man visited the orphans on Sunday and told them the same thing.
"He threatened them and left, promising to return. And he did. With devastating consequences.
The Umvoti local municipality has promised to pay for the deceased's funerals.
"They had nothing," mayor Petros Ngubane said.