'Traditional healer' walks into police station with a human hand and leg, says he is 'tired of eating human flesh'
Two South African men who previously admitted to killing a woman before cannibalizing her corpse have been sentenced to a life in prison. 33-year-old Nino Mbatha and 22-year-old Lungisani Magubane were convicted in the 2017 murder of Zanele Hlatshwayo and handed down the sentence by judge Peter Olsen at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
According to the Washington Post, Mbatha walked into a police station in Estcourt, a town in KwaZulu-Natal province, carrying a bag with a human hand and leg in August 2017 and bizarrely claimed he was "tired of eating human flesh." When the officers refused to believe his claim, he led them to a house where they found a collection of other body parts, including eight ears in a pot.
“I’m Tired of Eating Human Flesh” – Says South African Cannibal— Wish Fm (@Wishfmradio) 14 November 2018
- Nino Mbatha, 33, is said to have handed in part of a human leg and a hand to a police station.
Migori Governor Okoth Obado pic.twitter.com/YbInRqK879
The Daily Mail reported that Mbatha was a "traditional healer" who had enlisted the help of Magubane to behead Hlatshwayo and then remove her internal organs, hands, and feet. He had allegedly done this to gain "strength, luck to get work and to be loved by women" through "muti," a term used for traditional medicine in certain parts of southern Africa.
Mbatha suggested they get a woman or a child for this purpose as "the ancestors insisted that blood needed to be spilled." He is said to have later instructed the 22-year-old to eat the murdered woman's flesh for "good luck." Prosecutors said the pair then dismembered their victim's corpse further and used the body parts to make traditional medicine.
Mbatha denied saying he ate human flesh soon after his arrest and prosecutors tried the case as murder instead. It also emerged that community members often dug up graves under the orders of Mbatha to give him the bones.
KZN ‘cannibals’ appear in court: Four men at the centre of a an alleged “cannibalism” case made a brief appearance in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Thursday. Lungisani Magubane‚ Khayelihle Lamula‚ Nino Mbatha and Sithembiso Sithole have been… https://t.co/lpCgbeC1zs pic.twitter.com/soxz8v6Dos— Sandton24.com (@sandton24_com) 25 January 2018
The case, which horrified the country and has come to be dubbed as the "cannibal case," resulted in the authorities uncovering what they suspected was a cannibalism ring. It eventually led to the arrests of a total of five other men — two of whom claimed to be traditional healers — aged 30 to 32, for being in the possession of human body parts.
Curiously enough, there is no direct law against cannibalism in South Africa, though mutilating a corpse and being in possession of human tissue are still criminal offenses. All the men accused pleaded not guilty to the crimes, and while Mbatha and Magubane were found guilty, a third was acquitted. A fourth man, identified as 31-year-old Sithembiso Sithole, died in prison after apparently killing himself while awaiting his trial.
Speaking at the sentencing, Olsen said Mbatha and Magubane were guilty of the "most heinous crime," saying, "What happened in this case is truly awful. It was the stuff of nightmares. How one would react in such circumstances is unpredictable. One may well want to unburden oneself of guilt, but later have second thoughts."