Hundreds of people allegedly confessed to eating human flesh given to them by one of four men facing cannibalism charges in South Africa, reports say.
The four accused cannibals — Nino Mbatha, 32; Lindokuhle Masondo, 32; Sthembiso Sithole, 31, and 30-year-old Lungisani Magubane — appeared in court on Monday in Estcourt to face charges of murder and conspiracy for allegedly raping, killing, mutilating and then eating the body of a woman, The Witness reports.
One of the suspects allegedly walked into a police station in the central South African town on Friday while holding human body parts, including a leg and a hand, and confessed to being “tired of eating
human flesh,” according to the newspaper.
Police found more body parts at a home in the Rensburgdrift section of Estcourt, a town in the country’s KwaZulu-Natal province.
Col. Thembeka Mbhele, a police spokesman, said Mbatha — one of the accused cannibals who also acts as a traditional healer known as a “nyanga” – was arrested in Amangwe, where more body parts were found.
Meanwhile, ward councilor Mthembeni Majola, who held a community meeting Monday after the suspects appeared in court, said roughly 300 residents confessed to visiting Mbatha and knowingly eating human flesh.
Majola said the practice was not limited to Estcourt and that Mbatha had links across Uthukela, one of the 11 districts of the larger KwaZulu-Natal province.
Mbatha had apparently worked as a practicing healer in Ladysmith before fleeing to Rensburgdrift earlier this year after another nyanga was reportedly attacked and killed, Majola said, although that killing has not be confirmed.
“We don’t know what to do or who to trust,” Majola told the newspaper. “This has happened within our community. Families, people we know and live with, have now confessed to eating this woman.”
Some residents even confessed to personally digging up graves at Mbatha’s direction before giving him the recovered remains.
Villagers said during the meeting that Mbatha told them that exhuming the graves would protect them from harm, make them stronger and bring them wealth if they handed them over to the nyanga.
The provincial Occult-Related Crime Unit is now investigating the claims, Mbhele said.