Parents of Vlakfontein mass murder victims fume over Khupe's case

Murder accused Fita Khupe. / Tankiso Makhetha
Murder accused Fita Khupe. / Tankiso Makhetha
Image: Tankiso Makhetha

The fathers of three children who were killed during the Vlakfontein mass murder feel hopeless after charges against the remaining suspect were withdrawn.

The Khoza family feels it will never be able to find justice for seven of its members who were killed and buried inside a house in Vlakfontein in October last year.

Cousins Karabo, 13, Luyanda, seven, and Sibongakonke, three, Amanda and their aunts Mbali, and Duduzile were found murdered.

The National Prosecuting Authority said it had withdrawn charges against Fita Khupe, 61, one of two men charged for the murders of the family.

The state said there were no prospects of successful prosecution after Khupe's co-accused, Ernest Mabaso - who had falsely called himself "Sibusiso Khoza" and wormed his way into the Khozas' lives by pretending to be a distant relative - died in prison in January. Mabaso is believed to have committed suicide.

Cedric Shembe, Luyanda and Sibongakonke's father, said he was unhappy with the court's decision to withdraw the charges against Khupe.

"I am angered by this because the NPA didn't even contact me as a father. They contacted someone who is not even a relative and told them of their decision to withdraw charges," said Shembe.

"Like a man though, I have to accept the outcome because I have been grieving my children's death since last year. I am hurt that we won't have closure on what happened," he said. Teboho Lekotje, Karabo's father, said he was hurt and did not want to speak about the matter until he had a clarity.

"I wasn't called by the NPA to explain what happened as well. I found out on Friday. I don't really want to talk about it right now because I don't know what happened that led to them releasing this man."

NPA Gauteng spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane said the state withdrew Khupe's charges because there was not enough evidence against him.

She said witnesses who gave statements to the police could not link Khupe to the murder or describe the role he played in the murders or rapes of the deceased. "All we have as a state is a confession left by the deceased [Mabaso], and of which the law prohibits us from using that. Section 219 of the Criminal Procedure Act clearly states that such a confession cannot be used as evidence," she said.

"The death of Ernest Mabaso, who was accused No1 in this matter, proved detrimental to the state's case and had to employ a different strategy after realising the negative impact that Mabasa's death had on its case.

"Those efforts proved to be a fruitless exercise and brought the state to the conclusion that there are no reasonable prospects for a successful prosecution, hence the decision to withdraw the charges against Khupe," said Mjonondwane.

Following the withdrawal of the charges, residents of Vlakfontein blockaded roads with burning tyres in protest against the decision. They demanded that Khupe remain in jail and that the NPA reconsider its decision.

Community leader Rebecca Moloi said they would explore their options to make headway on the matter.

"We will approach the SA Human Rights Commission so that we can get advice about what we should do next. It can't be that femicide matters go unsolved," she said.

Following the withdrawal of the charges, residents of Vlakfontein blockaded roads with burning tyres in protest against the decision. They demanded that Khupe remain in jail and that the NPA reconsider its decision.

Community leader Rebecca Moloi said they would explore their options to make headway on the matter.

"We will approach the SA Human Rights Commission so that we can get advice about what we should do next. It can't be that femicide matters go unsolved," she said.

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