The Pietermaritzburg High Court has adjourned until March 2020 the "Glebelands Eight" case against eight men who are accused of the murders at Glebelands hostel in Umlazi in Durban.
The case has been set for two sessions, on 2 March and 26 March 2020, resuming in April after the court recess. All eight accused will remain in Westville prison close to their relatives, according to the State Advocate Dorian Paver.
The eight men, Bhekukwazi Mdweshu, Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Vukani Mcombothi, Eugene Hlophe, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Ncomekile Ntshangase, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele, face 22 charges including nine murder and seven attempted murder charges.
The state witness who has been testifying in camera this week finished his testimony on Thursday, telling the court how he was forced to flee from Glebelands hostel after receiving several threats for being a hindrance to hitmen living in the hostel.
The witness, who was a liquor hawker, spoke of the murder of Sphamandla Cele, on 24 March 2016. No one was arrested for the murder of Cele. The witness told the court that he learnt that Cele was killed when he saw him lying on the road by the Glebelands hostel.
After Cele was shot, he said, he received threats from the police and the residents of Glebelands. The man said residents were influenced by some of the accused to protest against him. Police had told him to leave Glebelands.
"The police asked me why I was still alive because other people are dying. They told me I must leave because I am a disturbance to the hitmen at Glebelands hostel. At the same time some of the accused gathered the community to have a protest against me."
He said the residents had been told by "some of the accused" that he had killed Cele.
"I immediately left Glebelands leaving behind my items. The only thing I took from my room was my clothes. A day after I left, the residents broke into my room. They took my documents. My furniture was stolen including the liquor that I was selling. They took my fridge, snooker pool table and all they wanted," the witness told the court.
Xolani Sindane, representing Mbuthuma, Mcombothi, Ntshangase, Mthembu and Mbhele, asked the witness if he was not linked to the death of Cele. The witness said he was not.
Sindane said Ntshangase (his client) had seen the witness killing Cele. According to Sindane, his client Ntshangase was in Block 17 when he saw the witness and another man attacking Cele.
"He is lying," said the witness.
Sindane asked if he had attended Cele's funeral. The witness said he had not.
"Some of the accused convinced Cele's family that I killed him. At the time the family was against me. As time went on I explained to the family what happened. We are on good speaking terms now," said the witness.
Hlophe's lawyer, Dianne Franklin, also cross-examined the witness about Cele's murder. She asked if he had left Glebelands not because people had said he was disturbing hitmen, but because he had killed Cele. "No", said the witness.
"Why didn't you report the death of Cele to the police? Was it because you were scared that you were linked?" said Franklin.
"I did not report it at the time because I left Glebelands," the witness said. "My relatives had been killed, including Cele. I was confused as to how I will explain at home how my brothers had been killed," he said.