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Durban - Eight pupils accused of murdering a KwaZulu-Natal teenager sobbed in court on Monday when told they would have to remain in custody.
Dressed in their uniforms as they stood in the dock at the Umbumbulu Magistrate’s Court, they had hoped that because they were school pupils, the court would release them.
But the magistrate was not impressed, telling the pupils during their first court appearance that they faced a serious charge and, if found guilty, could be given “huge” sentences.
“Don’t come here to say you are students. Go and think about extraordinary factors on the day of your bail application,” he said.
The eight pupils, and two other accused who have finished school, were remanded in custody until their bail application on September 2.
Their parents and relatives wept on hearing the pupils would have to remain in Westville Prison for two weeks.
The accused - Zamukulunga Gumede, Fano Lembede, Thabani Nxumalo, Siyabonga Mkhize, Mndeni Nxumalo, Manqoba Malevu, Xolani Nxumalo, Mfundo Makhanya, Nkululeko Gumede, Simphiwe Mtshali - range in age from 19 to 21.
They are alleged to have murdered Sanele Phewa, 18, whose body was found by his teenage cousins near the Umgoqozi River in Umbumbulu on Thursday afternoon.
The cousins had followed a group that stormed Phewe’s house and accused him of stealing their clothes.
The victim’s oldest cousin, Sne, said Phewa was with their 87-year-old grandmother and some children at the time. She said her grandmother had pleaded with them not kill him.
“We are all stressed… especially the children who found him. He looked after the children and my grandmother,” Sne said.
She said the attackers should have contacted the police about the alleged theft, not taken the law into their own hands.
The cousins who witnessed the killing were living in fear of their lives, she said, explaining they went to the same school as eight of the accused.
“I took them back to school. There is no reason for them not to go back to school but they are afraid… because they don’t have anyone to protect them.”.
The accused were arrested at Mthambo High School on Friday.
Police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunde, said it was alleged Phewa was assaulted and stabbed to death “by a group of boys suspecting him of the criminal activities in the area”.
Provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, said: “We need to emphasise that vigilantism will not be tolerated and perpetrators will be arrested, prosecuted and sent to prison.
“We will effectively investigate this case and further arrests are imminent. We urge the members of the community to work together with the police by giving them information about criminal activities in their areas.”