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Traditional healer accused of killing child with albinism denies it all

Thokozani Msibi,Brilliant Mkhize and Knowledge Mhlanga hiding from the camera during their court appearance PHOTO: PROMISE MARUPENG
Thokozani Msibi,Brilliant Mkhize and Knowledge Mhlanga hiding from the camera during their court appearance PHOTO: PROMISE MARUPENG
Image: PROMISE MARUPENG

Despite body parts being found in his hut, Thokozani Msibi, the traditional healer and alleged mastermind in the killing of Gabisile Shabane, has denied any involvement in her gruesome slaying.

Numerous witnesses in the murder case have testified how Msibi had encouraged them to find a person living with albinism who they could sacrifice as part of “get rich quick” rituals.

But when Msibi took to the stand on Wednesday, he claimed all of them were lying.

Under cross-examination in the high court, sitting in Middelburg, Msibi said that when he was arrested in 2018 he had no idea what his alleged crimes were, and only learnt of the gruesome accusations against him when he went to court.

I was also shocked when cops showed me those body parts. I don't know how they got there.
Thokozani Msibi

But prosecutor Ntsika Mpolweni quizzed him on how Shabane's head and hand ended up in his indumba, a traditional hut. Msibi said: “I was also shocked when cops showed me those body parts. I don't know how they got there.

“On the day Gabisile and Nkosikhona were kidnapped, I was in Mbombela, where I had accompanied my sick girlfriend to see a healer.

“I never conspired with anyone to look for a person living with albinism.”

The traditional healer is accused of spearheading a plan that resulted in 13-year-old Shabane being kidnapped along with her 15-month-old nephew, Nkosikhona Ngwenya, from their home in Hlalanikahle in Emalahleni (formerly Witbank).

According to previous witness testimony, Nkosikhona was an unintended casualty in the kidnapping. The intruders had mistaken the light-skinned toddler for another child living with albinism in the same house. When they realised their mistake, they allegedly tossed Nkosikhona into a swamp near the N4, where he drowned. His decomposed body was found weeks later.

The court has heard how Shabane, on the other hand, was forced to drink an alcoholic drink laced with brake fluid and also smoke dagga before she was killed and dismembered. Her body parts were removed and she was buried in a shallow grave on a farm in Cullinan which witnesses said belonged to Msibi.

Several days later, her killers returned to the grave where they beheaded her corpse and even chopped off her hands – all in a bid to make their muti even more powerful.

Some of Shabane’s body parts – including a portion of her skull and a hand – were found at the premises where Msibi consulted, while other parts had, according to previous state witnesses, already been sold to other clients. The rest of the corpse was found in Cullinan.

Msibi’s alleged involvement in Shabane’s killing had been testified to by several witnesses, including another traditional healer, Sipho Ndlovu, from Eswatini.

Ndlovu last week testified that he was shocked when his brother-in-law, Mfanasibili Gamedze, who is also a traditional healer, had approached him for assistance in 2018 along with Msibi.

Ndlovu said the pair told him how they had killed Shabane for her body parts and now needed powerful muti to not only cleanse them but to aid them in evading the police. They had travelled with Shabane’s body parts to Eswatini. The two men, Ndlovu said, had even offered part of Shabane's skull to him as payment for his assistance. He refused.

Ndlovu told the court he was disgusted by their act and, instead, gave them muti to make their stomachs tight and sent them to go perform a meaningless ritual in the veld. He contacted the police as soon as they left his premises.

The traditional healer was bold as he looked Msibi in the eye last week and told him he was “not a healer but a witch”.

Gamedze was arrested in Eswatini and died while in police custody before he could be extradited to SA to face trial linked to Shabane's murder. 

But Msibi on Wednesday told the court that “he had never met Ndlovu before and saw him for the first time in court”.

“I don't know how he knows me,” Msibi said.

Msibi told the court that the farm where Shabane’s body was found was not his and that it belonged to his girlfriend. She is expected to testify in the trial.

Msibi is on trial alongside Mthobisi Brilliant Mkhize and Knowledge Wezi Mhlanga.

Mhlanga had given the police a statement detailing his part in Shabane’s kidnapping and killing. This was made shortly after his arrest but he has since made a U-turn on this, saying he was beaten and suffocated and coached by police on what to say.

But after a trial-within-a-trial, judge Heinrich Brauckmann on Tuesday dismissed all the allegations of the assault. Brauckmann said Mhlanga was never assaulted or threatened by anyone to give a statement and that his statement would be entered as evidence in court.

Meanwhile, another accused, Josiah Themba Thubane – a teacher-turned-businessman – pleaded guilty to his part in the murder in 2019. He had confessed to approaching Msibi, seeking muti to make his struggling rental business thrive.

He told the court how Msibi had told him that the answer to his problems was the limbs of a person living with albinism and that is how he partook in Shabane’s abduction.

Thubane was meant to testify in the trial against Msibi and the two co-accused but, last week, TimesLIVE learnt that he had fallen ill while behind bars and died.

At least two other people, one of whom confessed to assisting in digging up and desecrating Shabane's corpse, have not been charged as they turned state witness. In return for them telling the court everything they knew about Shabane's gruesome murder, they were given immunity. 

TimesLIVE


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