CHANGED HIS TUNE: Thabani Mzolo in the dock.
Thabani Mzolo intends pleading guilty to the murder of student Zolile Khumalo, says his attorney.

In a statement to The Star’s sister newspaper in Durban, The Mercury, attorney Charl Claassen, who is representing the 23-year-old, said Mzolo had handed him written instructions to “bring to the public’s knowledge, especially to the deceased’s family, that he’ll be pleading guilty to the murder of Zolile Khumalo”.

Mzolo was arrested for shooting Khumalo multiple times in the chest in a room at a students’ residence in May.

Khumalo, 21, was a first-year quantity surveying student at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT), where Mzolo had also been registered until last year.

Claassen said Mzolo wished to convey that the motivation behind his decision was to provide the Khumalo family with some sort of closure.

“He appreciates the pain and anguish they are going through and hopes they can now know the truth, as opposed to waiting for what could be months before he is indicted and called upon to formally plead to the charge,” said Claassen.

He said he was also instructed that this be made public now, but Mzolo would “divulge further information surrounding the murder to bring what he hopes to be some sense and calm to the deceased’s family and the public” at a later stage.

At his court appearance last month, Mzolo abandoned bail and was remanded at Westville Prison. This is where Claassen said he had gone to consult with Mzolo at least four times to make sure he wanted to go public with his intended plea.

“He further wishes to convey that he knows and understands that nothing can be done or said by him to ease the pain he has caused the family, but he hopes that by coming out with the truth it may perhaps bring some comfort to them.

“He has asked me to properly convey the enormous amount of shame and remorse he has for killing an innocent woman with a bright future ahead of her, which he has cut short due to his evil actions,” said Claassen.

During his previous court appearances, Mzolo had been accused of showing no remorse, having shown the middle finger and trigger signs to the public gallery.

Claassen later said this was not his client showing disrespect for the court or disregard for the seriousness of the charges against him, but rather a reaction to those in the public gallery who he claimed had taunted him.

But MUT student representative council president Sandile Dlamini said pleading guilty was what Mzolo should have done from the beginning, and he was concerned that the plea might be a ploy to get a lighter sentence.

“What has changed, because he showed no remorse in court? It’s difficult for me to believe he is being honest and genuine. I hope he is not doing this to make the court feel sorry for him; he must get the maximum sentence.”

Dlamini said the students who had gathered in their numbers in court would continue to do so until Mzolo was sentenced.

“We want to hear it from his lips that he is guilty, and we are not going to clap hands for him for doing that; it won’t bring Zolile back.”

Mzolo is due back in court on August 29.