Johannesburg - These are the men arrested for bludgeoning and stabbing to death Mozambican man Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra at the weekend.
Their pictures were splashed in the media showing them attacking the helpless 35-year-old street vendor with knives, a pipe wrench and a spade.
On Tuesday morning at the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court, Sizwe Mngomezulu, Ayanda Sibiya, Siphundi Mzimela and Mthinto Bhengu tried to hide their faces with their hoodies.
Worked-up residents tried to push their way into the packed court before the case started, screaming that they wanted to “see the killers”.
The police had their hands full but managed to stop the crowd from entering as the four suspects made their brief appearance in court where they are facing charges of murder with aggravating circumstances and theft.
Those who filled the courtroom, waited with bated breath to see the accused. They included Gauteng Premier David Makhura and Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane
There was also a strong police presence inside the courtroom with armed officers standing on the aisles.
Many others also stood guard outside the court and controlled the group of residents who came to support Sithole and his family. Many of them, dressed in ANC colours, carried placards which read: “stop xenophobia”. They stood behind the cordoned off area, singing and dancing in protest against xenophobic violence that swept the country in the past week.
It took magistrate Gideon Schnetler a few minutes to postpone the case to May 4 for a formal bail application.
If convicted, the murder charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison because a weapon was used to carry out the deadly act.
The National Prosecuting Authority said on Tuesday it was confident of a conviction.
“We are here to assure the public that we are treating this matter in a very serious light. We are confident with evidence we have that there is enough to have them convicted,” National Directorate of Public Prosecutions head Mxolisi Nxasana told journalists in Alexandra following the appearance of the four men.
Police have been praised for the swift arrests in the murder.
On Tuesday morning Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the fourth man was arrested on Monday night a day after the three others were arrested thanks to community tip-offs and widespread media coverage.
Dlamini confirmed that those arrested were the same men whose pictures were published in the Sunday Times, including the knife-wielding man.
The pictures, which brought the grim attack to the public’s attention, also show the murder taking place in full view of onlookers who were too afraid to get involved.
Following the ambush, Sithole was left for dead in Second Avenue, near a pile of dirt.
Journalists that were on the scene took him to hospital, where he later died.
Despite elements of Sithole’s murder pointing towards a xenophobia, Dlamini was unable to immediately confirm the motive.
He told the Star on Monday: “At this stage it is not clear whether the attack may be linked to the threats against foreign nationals or it was a criminal act to rob the victim,” he said. “Our investigation will determine the motive of the attack.”
He said that according to witnesses, Sithole was a street vendor and an argument ensued after the suspects approached him and took his goods without paying.
“He was then confronted by one of the suspects who were wielding a knife.” “In the process he was stabbed.”
Since attacks against foreign nationals flared up about two weeks ago in KwaZulu-Natal, seven people, including Sithole, are believed to have been killed in xenophobic violence.
The Star and ANA