Phindile Ntshongwana appearing in court. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Durban - The medication that alleged Durban axe murderer, former Blue Bulls rugby player Joseph Phindile Ntshongwana, had taken for his mental illness had not led to an improvement, his mother said on Monday.

Her son would be better for a few days, but then it was “always back to square one,” she told acting judge Irfaan Khalil at the Durban High Court.

Ntshongwana’s mother, Phylina Letlaka, a former advocate and retired law lecturer at the Mangosuthu University of Technology in uMlazi outside Durban and now in private practice as an attorney, said she had listened carefully when a psychiatrist called by the State, Dr Soobiah (Dan) Moodley, testified last week.

She recalled he said the treatment that her son had been given had only stabilised his mood, it was not for fighting aggression.

The medication he was now on at Westville prison hospital was controlling the aggression, she said. She could now communicate with her son and he was talking sense, she said.

Ntshongwana, of Yellowwood Park outside Durban, has pleaded not guilty to four counts of murder, two of attempted murder, one of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and charges of kidnapping and raping a woman.

It is alleged he axed his victims to death, decapitating one and almost decapitating another.

Thembelenkosini Cebekhulu was killed on March 20, 2011, Paulos Hlongwa two days later, Simon Ngidi the next day, and an unidentified man some time that week. The woman was alleged to have been kidnapped and attacked the previous November.

Psychiatrists have told the court that Ntshongwana suffers from a schizo-affective disorder of the bipolar type.

After his contract ended with the Blue Bulls, he went to live with his mother in Durban, she recalled.

She noticed his personality had changed and he was diagnosed with a mental illness in 2009. He had often been admitted into hospitals for short periods. She saw him lose touch with reality.

Her son believed there were people in Durban who were following him and wanted to kill him. As a result, he would not go to certain areas in Durban when she wanted him to accompany him, she said.

“It was a very difficult time, especially as a single parent. He became aggressive for no apparent reason,” she said, explaining that at one time, she thought he was physically going to attack her younger son.

Ntshongwana had shouted at him and put his face close towards her younger son as if to attack him and this had shocked her.

“During that time, you would look at him and think you were seeing a totally different person,” she said.

Ntshongwana had also rushed up the stairs in their double-storey house after she asked him to return newspapers. He put his face, which was twisted, right next to hers as if he was going to attack her.

The most prominent feature of his mental condition was that he would lock himself in his bedroom and the family was most concerned with this behaviour.

A psychiatrist at King George V Hospital told her that if locking himself in his room made him happy and relaxed, she should also be happy as he was not going out roaming the streets. Ntshongwana’s mother said she had not been happy with this answer.

Sometimes, she would look at her son and see that he was “fine,” but then “you would see by what he is doing that ah, ah, things are not alright.”

She recounted that she had called Ntshongwanta to come to her aid after she had a puncture late one night when returning from lecturing in uMlazi. He had arrived in his car, told her he could not stay for five minutes and that she must “just ride the car” to the nearest garage to get them to change the tyre.

She eventually got help from someone else, but told the court that was when she realised that her son must be very sick “because no son would leave his mother in the darkness in a location where he knows there have been incidents”.

When she got home, he acted as if nothing had happened and he went off to his room.

She had dished out his medication for him, leaving it in the kitchen for him to take. But it was only when the police went into his room when he was arrested that she saw piles of tablets and realised that he had not been taking his medication.

The trial will resume on Thursday.