The Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, rejected the versions of the accused - among them the local ward councillor - that they knew nothing about assaulting Mbo Buti Mahlangu continuously for three hours until he eventually died.
A witness, however, said he watched the assault for nearly the entire time and saw exactly what each of the accused did to to Mahlangu. He was beaten to death with shovels, sjamboks and a steel pipe. One of the accused even stuffed a sock into his mouth so that his cries for help were muffled.
Among the eight accused were two women.
The eight CPF members who were convicted on Tuesday are Buti Mtsweni, 53, Joseph Baloyi, 51, Dinah Skosana, 32, Ivy Masombuka, 30, Bongani Masilela, 32, Zilani Msiza, 58, Senzo Mhlanga, 25 and ward councillor Klaas Mtsweni, 36.
Each of the accused forwarded an alibi for the night of August 26, 2015, when Mahlangu was murdered. Most said they were at home, watching a soapie or soccer match on television. Some said they did not feel well that day and had spent it indoors.
They said that the CPF in any event only worked on Mondays and Fridays and the incident occurred on a Wednesday.
But Patrick Nkosi, a local resident who knew the CPF members well, testified that he saw them assaulting Mahlangu. He stood so close to the action that he even heard what they were saying to him.
Nkosi was on his way to the shop that night, when he noticed all the accused huddled around a man. He asked what was happening and one said “we got hold of that boy”.
Nkosi said Mahlangu was caught two days earlier and cuffed, but he managed to get away.
On the day of the killing, he saw them dragging Mahlangu to a nearby sport field where they again cuffed him. They took turns hitting him with whatever they had in their hands. They were standing under a spotlight and he could see clearly what was going on. “One of the accused told the boy ‘we are tired of you. We are going to kill you’”.
Nkosi said he asked the councillor to rather call the police, but Mtsweni told him to mind his own business and that they will deal with the situation.
Nkosi testified the situation became so bad that he left as he could not watch any longer. He knew the victim and also often became fed-up with his ways, but he said mob justice was not the way to deal with the situation.
While he appreciated the good job the CPF normally did in the community, he felt it was his duty to report the assault to the police.
The accused testified that Nkosi falsely implicated them and each had a different reason as to why.
Mtsweni, told the court that he was the “number one resident” in the area and addressed by the community as “my chief”. He said he was woken up that night by a police officer who told him someone was being assaulted.
They went to the spot where the assault took place, but the assailants ran away.
He and the police officer, whom he called as a witness, said it was too dark for them to see who the attackers were.
Mtsweni said after they put the victim, who was still alive at the time, in the back of a bakkie, he went home, as he had to prepare for a meeting. His police witness testified he took Mahlangu to the hospital, but he died on the way there.
Acting Judge Prince Manyathi rejected the versions of the accused and found they all took part in the assault, which led to the death.