The five men facing charges related to cannibalism, from left to right, Nino Mbatha, Sithembiso Sithole, Lindokuhle Masondo, Lungisani Magubane and Khayelihle Lamula, in the dock at the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court. PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA
Durban - Hundreds of angry Estcourt residents bayed for the blood of the five men facing charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder related to cannibalism.

The accused appeared at the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Nino Mbatha was arrested after telling police he was tired of eating human flesh, while carrying part of a human leg and hand, earlier this month.

He and second accused Sithembiso Sithole have claimed to be traditional healers. The pair covered their faces as they were led into court on Monday morning, as did co-accused Lindokuhle ­Masondo, Lungisani Magubane and Khayelihle Lamula.

Once lined up in the dock magistrate Arthi Sookraj instructed the men to remove their hoodies, jackets and T-shirts from their faces, and to face the court.

Fourth accused Lungisani Magubane wept uncontrollably, unable to stand up straight. He regained his composure after a quick word with Legal Aid lawyer Thandeka Hadebe.

Hundreds of people who had gathered to protest against the men being granted bail, could be heard chanting outside the courtroom.

Hundreds of community members voice their outrage oustide the court. PICTURE: BONGANI MBATHA

Hadebe told the court that her clients wanted to abandon their bail application, which senior prosecutor Israel Zuma said the State had intended to oppose.

Each accused nodded yes when individually asked through an interpreter to confirm that they no longer ­wanted to apply for bail.

When court proceedings had been finalised, the accused again pulled their clothes over their faces and police led them back down into the holding cells.

The few people who were allowed into court walked out signalling to the waiting crowd that the accused would be leaving.

“We want to see the cannibals, bring them to us,” chanted the crowd.

A sister of one of the ­accused, who asked not to be named, said she had come to court to look her brother in the eye.

“What he did was so wrong. I had no idea he could do such a thing. At home he is a respectful person, it broke my heart to see him in the dock, but he is wrong for what he did,” she said.

“All I can say is, ‘my brother you have to be punished’. We will support him as a family. We don’t hate him. We hate what he did, but the law must take its course,” she said before quickly leaving the court.

Albert Street, where the court is located in Estcourt’s CBD, was closed and public order police deployed from ­Pietermaritzburg closely monitored the crowd.

It took almost an hour for the accused to be driven out of the court. Police, armed with rubber bullet shotguns and stun-grenades, pushed the crowd behind a cordon to clear a path in the road for the vehicle to pass.

A motorcade of three vans and a Casspir pulled out of the court premises. The crowd jeered as it passed, but the accused could not be seen from the outside. Among the picketers were traditional healers who are members of the ­National Traditional Healers Organisation for Africa.

Provincial organiser Sipho Mavundla said such cases tarnished the name of traditional healers.

“No one is allowed, and no one should use, any part of a human being to heal,” Mavundla said.

National organiser Sphiwe Manana said cannibalism was inhumane and unethical.

He warned the public to ensure that their traditional healers were registered with one of the associated organisations.

The matter returns to court on September 28.

The Mercury