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Durban - The family of a woman who died after acid was thrown in her face expressed their anger and unhappiness after the alleged killer, a colleague of hers, was granted bail of R1 500 on Tuesday.
Anton Mlaba, the brother of Smangele Mlaba, told the Daily News his sister was killed in the most gruesome manner and said that her killer belonged behind bars.
“My sister was not even given a chance to defend herself. She suffered a painful and horrific death, and now her (alleged) killer is walking free. This is not justice,” he said.
Pietermaritzburg Regional Court magistrate ZW Ngwenya granted Ntombenhle Mkhize, 34, bail on condition that she did not interfere with State witnesses and that she attend all the court proceedings.
The magistrate lambasted the investigating officer, Rajeev Soorajbally, who testified in opposition to bail for Mkhize.
Ngwenya said the State had “not a scrap of evidence” that Mkhize would evade her trial or intimidate witnesses if released on bail.
The magistrate also said it was “disturbing” that Mkhize’s bail application took seven months to take place.
Mkhize was arrested in January this year.
She had initially intended to plead guilty to culpable homicide, saying at her bail application that she had only intended to disfigure Mlaba and not kill her.
However, the State intends to prove that Mlaba’s murder was premeditated.
The magistrate said it was clear that the case had drawn much public interest and media attention, but it was his job to ensure that the rights of the accused, and the interests of society in general, were safeguarded.
The magistrate said the fact that Mkhize had been in custody for seven months, through no fault of her own, coupled with the fact that she had a 10-year-old son for whom she received a social grant, amounted to exceptional circumstances favouring her release on bail.
It is alleged that Mkhize, of the KwaPata location, followed Mlaba after work on the afternoon of January 15.
The two women worked at Miguel’s Bakery, a popular confectionery shop in the Pietermaritzburg CBD.
It is believed that an argument over baking trays between the women began at work the day before the attack.
The disagreement allegedly escalated to an altercation over Mkhize’s boyfriend.
According to the court docket, the next day Mkhize allegedly followed Mlaba as she walked along Pietermaritz Street and then confronted her.
The two women started arguing and then, in full view of a gathering crowd, Mkhize allegedly threw a litre of hydrochloric acid she had been carrying at Mlaba’s face and body.
People ran to Mlaba’s aid, but they too got burns on their hands as they tried to help her.
Mlaba suffered burns to 75 percent of her body and died in hospital two days after the attack, as a result of her injuries.
It is alleged that Mkhize obtained the acid from a place in KwaPata where factories discard acid and other waste products.