Durban - The man accused of killing a fellow University of KwaZulu-Natal student, and then setting his body alight, had accused him of being a zombie and of practising witchcraft, a witness to the discovery of the body has said.
The Westville campus student, who would not give his name, gave a chilling account of their tireless search for the missing Simukelo Zondi until they found his burning body in bushes near the rugby field on campus early on Saturday.
The student’s friends had launched a frantic search after being alerted to his disappearance by his girlfriend. The students had feared the worst might have happened to Zondi, 24, after their investigations indicated that his friend might have had something to do with his disappearance.
The student told the Daily News yesterday that Zondi’s girlfriend was worried when he did not return to his room on campus on Thursday, and alerted other students. They enquired about his whereabouts from his close friend. He said the friend, who had been arrested in connection with Zondi’s murder, had responded in a “weird” way and they suspected he had something to do with his disappearance. In a video doing the rounds on social media the friend is seen confessing to killing Zondi because he believed Zondi was a “zombie” and that he practised witchcraft.
Zondi’s friends had alerted campus security guards to assist them to search for him. His girlfriend reported him missing to the Westville police station on Thursday.
“We decided to conduct our own search in the dark bushes,” he said.
Zondi’s family arrived on campus on Friday and the search continued.
“We were about to request the assistance of the Dog Unit when we saw smoke coming from the bushes near campus. We spotted him (Zondi’s friend) and gave chase. He ran and handed himself to the campus security,” he said.
They tried to stop the body from burning further, but it was too late, he said.
He said they believed Zondi was already dead when they confronted the suspect, who then came up with the plan to burn his body to hide the evidence when the students launched the search.
Ntobeko Hadebe, secretary of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) at UKZN, said Zondi and the suspect were both B Comm students, played soccer together and were close friends.
“We were in the same class for BComm foundation in 2014 and they were inseparable. They both loved soccer. We are shocked. We do not know what could have soured the relationship,” he said.
Hadebe said although the incident could not have been prevented as the two were friends, they blamed the lack of proper security on campus. He said there were bushy areas near the campus that were dark and without cameras.
“Although there are security guards patrolling on campus, they do not reach certain areas that are without lighting and that is what attracts criminal activities,” said Hadebe.
Ashton Bodrick, the executive director of corporate relations at UKZN, said early reports were that Zondi and the student arrested were acquainted.
“We cannot continue to lose innocent lives in this manner. Young people are supposed to focus and complete their studies and contribute in making South Africa a better place.”
Police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said the 25-year-old man arrested in connection with Zondi’s murder will appear in court on Monday.