Three in court for mysterious Umtata grave case

South African Press Association, June 27, 2003
June 27, 2003, 16:45

Three people have appeared in the Umtata District Court today in connection with the discovery of eight bodies exhumed from shallow graves in a church compound this week.

Thompson Lingani (77) Sabelo Simayile (50), and Herbert Lingani (45), who are senior members of the church, were joined in court by 12 other members who were granted R300 bail each on Monday. The three senior members were on the other hand, granted bail of R500 each after Molden Hower, the magistrate, said the state had a prima facie evidence against them because the eight bodies buried in the graves were found in their properties.

A large, placard carrying crowd converged on the court uttering death threats against the members of the church – dubbed a cult – in the Mandela Park informal settlement in Umtata where the graves were found. The protesters demanded that the 15 suspects be remanded in custody.

Bongani Ntanjana, the investigating officer in the case, told the court the post-mortems had been completed, but said he was not in a position to say how the deceased had died. The case was postponed to September 1, and the accused were ordered not to go near the compound until the case had been finalised.

The court also ordered the accused to seek accommodation with relatives and not return to the Mandela Park formal settlement. A grader was used yesterday to remove topsoil at the compound to ascertain whether there were any other bodies. The police are still looking for a woman believed to be the head of the alleged cult. – Sapa

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