Violent protests erupted in Vlakfontein on Friday as a result of murder charges against Fita Khupe being dropped unexpectedly.
Khupe stood co-accused for the murder of seven people, whose
lifeless bodies had been discovered under heaps of dirt at a Vlakfontein home
in October 2018. The killing of the Khoza family sent shockwaves through South
Africa and sparked a nationwide manhunt for the culprits.
Ernest Mabaso and Fita Khupe, who were both known to the
Khoza family, were arrested for the murders days after the bodies of the four
children and three women were discovered.
Death of Vlakfontein murder-accused halts State’s case
Protest Action at Vlakfontein in the South of Joburg. Community members have barricaded Golden Highway with burning tyres & rocks. @JoburgMPD & Lenasia South @SAPoliceService officers are on scene. Motorists are advised to avoid & use K43 as an alternative. #JHBTraffic pic.twitter.com/b3L3anW3vA
— David Tembe (@AsktheChiefJMPD) June 7, 2019
Mabaso, who was accused number one in the case, died in prison in January, leaving Khupe to the mercy of the judicial system. Mabaso’s death, however, threw concurrent investigations and state prosecutions into a tailspin. Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), Phindi Mjonondwane, admitted that the possibility of a successful prosecution was dashed by the Mabaso’s death.
On Friday, the NPA officially dropped all charges against Khupe, allowing him to leave the courtroom a free man. Mjonondwane explained that the decision to withdraw from the case was regrettable but ultimately inevitable, saying:
“The death of Ernest Mabaso, who was accused No 1 in this matter, proved detrimental to the state’s case. Without the testimony of Mabaso, the state is basically left with nothing.”
Vlakfontein residents, still raw with emotion following the
brutal slaying, were further incensed by the NPA’s decision to withdraw charges
against Khupe. The negation of justice and accountability inflamed tensions
within the community, who took to the streets in protest to voice their dissatisfaction.
Protesters began barricading roads with burning tires and debris. Law enforcement arrived on the scene and attempted to defuse tensions in the area. The police presence, however, only added to the community’s seething anger.
In an attempt to disperse the protesters, Johannesburg Metro
Police Department (JMPD) fired rubber bullets into the crowd. It’s understood
that this has resulted in sporadic clashes between protesters and police