Two men walk into a dock in a court
Photo Lungisani Magubane (left) and Nino Mbatha (right) face life in prison for the 2017 killing of 24-year-old Zanele Hlatshwayo. Reuters: Rogan Ward

A South African man who walked into a police station carrying body parts and claimed he was “tired of eating human flesh” has been sentenced to life in prison for murder, along with one of his accomplices.

Traditional healer Nino Mbatha, 33, and Lungisani Magubane, 32, stood trial in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg for the 2017 murder of 24-year-old Zanele Hlatshwayo.

A third man, Khayelihle Lamula, was acquitted due to a lack of evidence, according to The Witness newspaper.

The court found the men had killed Ms Hlatshwayo for her body parts, but Judge Peter Olsen said the way the men had been caught was “remarkable”.

Police became aware of the men after Mbatha approached the station in the town of Estcourt in KwaZulu-Natal province and told them he needed assistance.

At first they thought he had mental health problems, before he produced a human hand and leg from his bag.

The arrest of the man who entered the police station led to the other arrests and the recovery of more body parts, a police spokeswoman said at the time of the arrest.

Photo The men’s previous court appearances have been met with large crowds and the presence of armed police.


Crowds gather outside a court amid the appearance of the accused cannibals.

According to The Witness, Magubane made a detailed statement about his role in the murder.

Judge Olsen said they were guilty of “the most heinous crime”.

“What happened in this case is truly awful. It was the stuff of nightmares,” he said.

“How one would react in such circumstances is unpredictable.

“One may well want to unburden oneself of guilt, but later have second thoughts.”

Five men were originally arrested over the murder and their court appearances in Estcourt were met with large crowds and armed guards.

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