The murder trial of a 21-year-old man, Sifiso Mkhwanazi, accused of killing six sex workers has begun in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mkhwanazi was arrested by the police in 2022 after six bodies of women were uncovered at his father’s panel-beating factory in Selby, Johannesburg.
On Monday, February 5, 2024, the State called its first witness in the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court to testify against the accused who is facing six counts of murder, seven of rape and several other charges he allegedly committed between April and October 2022.
Caretaker of the building, Michael Damien, who works for New City Estate that manages the building where the bodies of the six sex workers were found, took the stand to testify on Monday.
Asked how often he does his inspections, the witness said he visits the buildings Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 10am.
While conducting an assessment of the building on October 9, 2022, he smelt a pungent smell coming from the building in question, he testified.
This forced him to open an office door only to discover a lifeless body inside the building, he said. He later confronted the accused after the discovery of more bodies.
Damien said he alerted the accused’s father, Mark Khumalo, as well as the head of security, and together, they went to confront the accused who attempted to make a run for it.
“As soon as he saw me, he started running. We, however, managed to catch up with him. His father asked him why he was running, and he said he forgot something in the house,” said Damien.
On Friday, the matter was postponed to Monday for trial with the case set down for the State and the accused to enter into plea and sentence agreement negotiations.
According to the NPA, senior State advocate Leswikane Mashabela informed the court that the negotiations were unsuccessful and that the State was ready to proceed with the trial.
NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane confirmed that the father of the accused is the one who alerted the police of his son’s involvement in the murder of six sex workers.
“The business owner summoned the SAPS. Upon investigation by the police officers, five more bodies were discovered at various locations within the premises. Further investigations led to the arrest of Mkhwanazi,” Mjonondwane said.
The State alleges that Mkhwanazi raped and killed the six sex workers whom he collected from the Johannesburg CBD, between April and October 2022.
However, Mkhwanazi pleaded not guilty to all the charges and tendered admissions in terms of Section 220 of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA).
“He admitted to killing the females, using an arm choke; and to defeating or obstructing the administration of justice by concealing their bodies at different locations at the premises of the panel beating business.
“He further admitted to the charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances in that he robbed one of the deceased of her cellphone, and that he unlawfully took his father’s firearm and ammunition,” she said.
Mjonondwana said Mkhwanazi however, denied raping the females and alleged that it was consensual sex with the agreement of money for sex.
“He denied planning the murders of these women and said the crimes were committed because the women reneged on their agreement on the payment for sex and demanded more money,”
He cited that their actions triggered emotions of anger as he previously spent 10 months in prison after a sex worker accused him of rape, but later withdrew the false allegations,” she said.
The matter continues today.