No bail for Vlakfontein mass murder accused Fita Khupe
The 61-year-old man accused of murdering seven family members in Vlakfontein was denied bail in the Protea magistrate's court yesterday.
Fita Khupe faces seven counts of murder and possession of stolen property after he and Ernest Mabaso, his deceased co-accused, were arrested for allegedly killing members of the Khoza family in Vlakfontein in October.
Magistrate David Mhango said the seven counts of murder were accompanied with seven life sentences that could encourage Khupe to evade trial.
"Seven family members were brutally killed. I have no doubt in my mind that if Mr Khupe is given bail he might evade justice. He faces seven counts of murder," Mhango said.
Mhango said Khupe was a flight risk. "Mr Khupe is a Zimbabwean national even though he holds a South African passport and if he goes beyond the border it will not be easy to trace him," he said.
Mhango said the witnesses might be reluctant to testify if Khupe was released on bail.
"After consideration of the evidence, in its totality, I have come to the conclusion that Mr Khupe has failed to show exceptional circumstances."
Mhango said the evidence presented by the state indicated that Khupe masterminded the mass killing of three women and four children.
He further stated that despite Khupe alleging that he did not know Mabaso beyond limited conversations, cellphone records show that the pair were in constant communication around the time the murders were committed.
Mhango further said evidence presented to him show that the two accused acted in common purpose.
"The state's case against Mr Khupe is very strong, despite the fact that the first accused Mabaso is deceased," he said.
The 27-year-old Mabaso allegedly committed suicide in police holding cells last month.
Although having confessed to carrying out the brutal murders of seven members of the Khoza household, Mabaso claimed he had been forced to commit the crime by Khupe.
He alleged that Khupe plotted the entire murder, including for Mabaso to infiltrate the Khoza family pretending to be a long-lost relative.
Lawyer Gerhard Langman, acting for Khupe, alleged that this was now all hearsay, which could not be proven now that Mabaso was dead.
He submitted that his client had a watertight alibi, as he was away in Zimbabwe when the first murders were allegedly committed. Mhango postponed the matter until April 2 for further investigations.