Disturbing tavern deaths: 3 kids murdered for muthi, neighbour's dead baby found in tavern


A tavern owner has for the first time revealed disturbing details about how he found the body of a child on his property, the first of three young victims allegedly killed by his girlfriend in a string of murders that shocked the community of Orange Farm, south of Johannesburg.

The man told the high court sitting in the Palm Ridge magistrate’s court his girlfriend Pontsho Mohlanka appeared nonchalant and would not respond to his questions when they walked into the tavern on April 15 2020 and he found Mzwandile Zitho’s body in between a fridge and a counter.

Yesterday the man, who cannot be named as he is under witness protection, was the first to testify in the murder case against Mohlanka. He said on April 15 the tavern was closed and he was having a few drinks in the house.

“I requested my child to get me a few drinks from the tavern but Pontsho insisted that we should both go inside the tavern to get the drinks. I was walking behind Pontsho as we entered the tavern and that’s when I saw a naked boy in between the tavern counter and the fridge.”

He said even though it was dark inside, the fridge provided enough light for him to see the boy. “I moved closer and recognised the boy. I then asked Pontsho what Mzwandile was doing in the tavern and she did not respond. Mzwandile lived three houses away from the tavern.

“I moved much closer and realised that he was dead. I was shocked. I ran out of the tavern, leaving Pontsho behind with the body,” he said.

Mohlanka and the witness were arrested the day Mzwandile was found dead but the man was released four days later.

Mohlanka, from Lesotho, remained in custody as police checked her citizenship profile and was released in September, just two days before Mpho Makondo, 8, and Simphiwe Mgcina, 6, were found dead not far from the tavern.

“After my release I relocated to KwaZulu-Natal. I have never set foot in Orange Farm since that incident. I was surprised when I got a call from the police four months later [after Mzwandile was found], saying a note with my name was found tied to the body of one of the two children [Simphiwe and Mpho] found murdered near our tavern.”

Simphiwe and Mpho were also found naked. Both did not have any visible wounds and their faces were smeared with a black substance.

A handwritten note containing five names, including that of Mohlanka’s partner, was found tied to Simphiwe’s arm.

The witness said the names on the note were of his childhood friends and neighbour.

“The police asked me about the note and I told handwritten’ them I know who wrote it and I dont’ don t know why our names were mentioned on the note,” said the witness.

“The tavern business is in my name but most of the decisions on how to grow the business came from Pontsho. We consulted traditional healers together.

“At some point I was approached by a traditional healer from our area who gave me different potions that would boost our business. We both knew about the traditional healers and we discussed what they had told us.”

The witness said the couple also sourced the services of traditional healers for medical reasons and protection.

He said in 2015, Mohlanka was struck by lightning while inside their home and the couple had to seek help from a traditional healer because the incident left her deaf.

“After we consulted a traditional healer, Pontsho was able to hear again,” he said.

“At some point we had an unexplainable fire incident in our house. Fire started from nowhere and it damaged our property.

“The traditional healer could not explain what had happened but he gave us a few items for protection around the house,” he said.

The state has line-up 55 witnesses. Mohlanka has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The trial continues.

– Sowetan

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