News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday January 23rd 2018

Judgement day looms for accused ‘witch’ killers

The two men accused of petrol bombing an RDP house, resulting in the death of a mother and her two-year-old baby, are to know their fate on Thursday when Western Cape High Court Judge Lesley Weinkove will rule whether they are guilty or not.Kwanele James, 23, and Mzuvukile Thoswa, 24, stand accused of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, arson, damage to property, and three counts of violating the Suppression of Witchcraft Act as the state holds that the accused targeted their victims because they believed they were practicing witchcraft.

Sisters Thembakazi and Anelisa Matwa miraculously escaped unhurt from the blazing shack on the night of March 2.

However, their sister Yalezwa Phulwana, 22, and her two-year-old daughter Liyema died in hospital from burns caused by the blaze.

The sisters’ mother, Nonjengezinye Matwa, was also severely burned and had to be hospitalised.

James and Thoswa, who have pleaded not guilty on all counts, have been held in custody since their arrested on March 7, as the court believes their lives would be in danger if they returned to the community.

State prosecutor Simphiwe Vakele argued during trial that following the death of James’s mother shortly before he allegedly threw a petrol bomb in the Matwa’s house, he went to see an herbalist who told him Nonjengezinye Matwa was a witch and responsible for her death.

Vakele argued that James and Thoswa planned the attack in advance after receiving his information.

Defence attorney Peter Colenso argued that the accused could only be found guilty of arson and culpable homicide because when they torched the house they were not aware it was occupied.

“There is no evidence that the accused intended to cause injury or kill anyone in the house,” said Colenso.

Court records show that on the night of the incident the victims heard a knock on the door shortly after 11′o clock. As the family made a living selling meat, they thought it was a late night customer and called out that there was no meat left to sell.

Nonjengezinye said about an hour later she heard breaking glass and within seconds they were engulfed in flames.

Nonjengezinye said she tried to put the flames out with a blanket but was unsuccessful.

“I started screaming,” she said, but when she tried to open the door of the shack the key wouldn’t turn.

By screaming out of the window for help she managed to alert the neighbours who kicked the door down.

Vakele argued that the accused had tampered with the lock to trap the victims inside the house.

Although James had said he has alibi and was not near the scene at the time of the incident, co-accused Thoswa testified on Monday that it was James who threw a petrol bomb into the house. – Sandiso Phaliso, West Cape News

Tags: cape high court, practicing witchcraft, rdp

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