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Durban - A woman was set alight in her home because uMlazi residents believed she was practising witchcraft.

Thembekile Ngubane, 48, had admitted, at a specially convened community meeting in February last year, that she had shaved off a little boy’s eyebrows.

The three-year-old boy’s father, Mzuyanda Mntambo, 30, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty, in the Durban High Court, to her murder.

According to the indictment, Ngubane was ordered at this meeting to leave the area and was escorted to her house by a large mob.

It is alleged, Mntambo assaulted Ngubane and forced her to drink a fluid which he then poured on to her body and set her alight. Ngubane died in hospital a month later from her burns.

Yesterday, the boy’s mother Silindile Dlomo, who is still in a relationship with Mntambo, testified that in January last year, her son came home with his eyebrows shaved and after questioning him, he had said Ngubane was responsible.

Dlomo told Judge Sharmaine Balton she had confronted Ngubane who denied doing so.

She also claimed this was not the first time Ngubane had done something like this, saying she had also cut her son’s hair. Dlomo’s cousin, Lethu-kuthula Dlulisa, also testified for the State and said Dlomo’s and Mntambo’s son was still alive today despite the witchcraft suspicions.

He said Ngubane was summoned to a meeting in February last year where her actions were questioned.

He attended as a concerned parent and was among the people who followed Ngubane to her home nearby when the community decided she must leave the area because she was a danger to the children in the area.

When he arrived at Ngubane’s house, Dlulisa said people had already surrounded it and were shouting and throwing stones.

He said he pushed his way inside to find Ngubane hitting Mntambo with a hammer and he intervened.

“I told the old lady she’s not supposed to fight and that she had to leave,” he said and claimed Mntambo had assaulted the woman after he was hit with the hammer.

Dlulisa then took Ngubane’s suitcase outside and returned inside to find everything on fire, including Ngubane. Before running out, he said he tried to help Ngubane, but failed.

Under cross-examination, Dlulisa said after Ngubane admitted at the meeting to shaving off the little boy’s eyebrows, he did believe she was practising witchcraft.

“She never answered when we asked what she had done with the boy’s eyebrows. Our belief was that she had taken a body part, this is similar to witchcraft,” he said.

Dlulisa admitted he was among the people arrested as a result of this incident.

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