By Peter Matika
A 61-year-old man, believed to be a headman from Plumtree has been denied bail, in an ongoing mass murder case in neighbouring South Africa.
Fita Khupe, who is accused of masterminding the brutal murder of seven family members in Vlakfontein, South Africa was last week denied bail by a South African magistrate, citing that he was a flight risk, as he was a Zimbabwean.
Khupe is facing up to seven counts of murder and possession of stolen property, after he and his deceased co-accused (Ernest Mabaso) were arrested for allegedly killing members of the Khoza family in October last year. According to South African media reports, South African magistrate Mr David Mhango said the seven counts of murder were accompanied with seven life sentences that could encourage Khupe to evade trial.
“Seven family members were brutally killed. I have no doubt in my mind that if Mr Khupe is given bail he might evade justice. He faces seven counts of murder,” Mr Mhango said.
Mr Mhango said Khupe was a flight risk.
“Mr Khupe is a Zimbabwean national even though he holds a South African passport and if he goes beyond the border it will not be easy to trace him,” he said.
Mr Mhango, during the hearing, said witnesses might become reluctant to testify if Khupe was released on bail.
“After consideration of the evidence, in its totality, I have come to the conclusion that Mr Khupe has failed to show exceptional circumstances,” said Mr Mhango.
Mr Mhango noted that the evidence presented by the State indicated that Khupe masterminded the mass killing of three women and four children. He further stated that despite Khupe alleging that he did not know Mabaso beyond limited conversations, cellphone records show that the pair was in constant communication around the time the murders were committed. Mr Mhango further said evidence presented to him show that the two accused acted in common purpose.
“The State’s case against Mr Khupe is very strong, despite the fact that the first accused Mabaso is deceased,” he said.
Khupe’s co-accused, deceased 27-year-old Mabaso allegedly committed suicide in police custody in January this year.
It was reported that Mabaso admitted to committing the murders but insisted that he was forced into committing the crime by Khupe, who is said to have been the mastermind behind the heinous crime. Mabaso, before committing suicide alleged that Khupe plotted the entire murder incidents.
The bodies of the deceased were then buried in the same house where they lived, and the same house where Khupe also stayed upon arrival in South Africa.
He allegedly told detectives that he masterminded a plan to infiltrate the Khoza home, where he pretended to be a long-lost relative.
Khupe’s lawyer Mr Gerhard Langman alleged that the points raised by the State during the trial were all hearsay and could not be proven since Mabaso was dead. Mr Langman submitted that Khupe had a watertight alibi, as he was away in Zimbabwe when the first murders were allegedly committed. Mr Mhango postponed the matter to 2 April this year pending further investigations. Sunday News