Sugar-cane murder accused appear in court

The case against a 36-year-old man accused of murdering 10 KwaZulu-Natal women and dumping their bodies in sugar-cane fields was remanded on Friday in the Umzinto Magistrate’s Court for further investigation.

Magistrate Giel van Aarde remanded the case against Thozamile Taki and his alleged accomplice, Hlengiwe Nene, so that Nene could apply for bail on November 27.

State prosecutor Advocate Noxolo Tokwana told the court Taki had not applied for bail.

Taki looked around the court room during proceedings as Nene kept her head down throughout.

The courtroom was packed with relatives, and outside the court there was a heavy police presence. However, unlike previous appearances of the two, there were no demonstrating crowds. When the two appeared in court on October 10, there were at least 150 protesters outside the court buildings.

Most of those who attended Friday’s hearings were relatives and members of the media, who were searched for weapons prior to entering the courtroom.
It was the first appearance of the two that was not held in camera. Previous appearances had been held in camera to allow detectives time to hold identification parades.

Taki is accused of being the mastermind in the case. It is alleged that he lured the 10 women to Umzinto with the promise of employment and then murdered them. It is believed that he also raped them.

The first of their badly decomposed bodies was discovered early in September.

Arrests

Police initially arrested five people, three women and two men, in connection with the sugar-cane murders.

Two women have since been released and the charges against Zandisile Bhadla Somanikiniki (28) were dropped during the hearing on October 10.

However, it emerged that Somanikiniki was wanted in connection with numerous charges in the Eastern Cape and the Free State. He is accused of double murder, a murder and an armed robbery in the Eastern Cape. One of those killed is a police officer. It is believed that he faces two murder charges in Welkom in the Free State.

Police have so far only released the body of one person—Nombali Ngcobo (35) from Inanda near Durban.

Taki hails from the Majola area near Port St John, where police are also investigating the discovery of three bodies.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said on Friday afternoon that police have so far not linked the discovery of the three bodies in the Majola Tea Estate to Taki and Nene. “There is no link yet. But it cannot be ruled out yet,” he said.

He said police are still waiting for the DNA test results on the 10 bodies discovered in the sugar-cane fields adjacent to Umzinto’s Shayamoya township and on the three Majola bodies.

The testing has been prioritised, but he was unable to say when the results are expected.

Speaking shortly after the brief appearance of Taki and Nene, the KwaZulu-Natal commissioner of the Commission on Gender Equality, Janine Hicks, expressed concerns that the “nature of violence and trends [against women] are changing”.

Whereas previously attacks against women were domestic violence, the commission has noted increased attacks against lesbians and against women who do not abide with “prevailing customs”.

As an example, she cited a recent case in Durban’s Umlazi area where a woman was stripped of her clothing after she had violated a locally enforced ban on wearing pants.—Sapa

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