Sandile Ndlovu pleaded guilty to killing six people in Shongweni during his Pinetown Regional Court appearance on Wednesday.
He took the court and his lawyer by surprise when he announced his plea during his bail application.
Ndlovu handed himself over to the police in Pietermaritzburg recently and his lawyer was not aware he would plead guilty.
He had handed himself over after his name was circulated as one of the suspects.
He was charged with six counts of murder and a charge of rape.
A second suspect sought in connection with the deaths was killed in a shootout with police on Tuesday evening, KwaZulu-Natal police said on Wednesday.
“Khetha Bhenjani Nxele was killed by the police last night [Tuesday] in Dassenhoek after he opened fire on them,” said Brigadier Phindile Radebe.
Nxele’s brother, Philani Nxele, also a prime suspect in the killings, was shot dead by the police when he allegedly opened fire on them last month.
Radebe said members of the organised crime unit were tipped off that he was hiding in the area.
“The police found him at around 10pm and he opened fire,” she said.
Among the dead in the massacres were two boys, Thalente and Mthobisi Zulu, aged two and eight. The other victims were named as Thabani Zulu, 18, Nokuthula Zulu, 22, Sthembiso Nxusa, 29, and Ngenzeni Hlongwane, 40.
A 13-year-old girl was allegedly raped. A 32-year-old woman was also shot, but survived and was being treated in hospital.
Police believe this case and a slaughter in Mariannhill in which four people were killed are linked. Nolusindiso Sikhotha, 30, her six month old baby, Sesethu, her partner Bongani Mngomezulu and his brother, Vasco Msane, were gunned down in their home. — Sapa