Nomzamo tavern massacre: ‘Murders caused by rival burial societies’

The six suspects are facing 19 murder charges and one charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Some angry community members threatened to burn down the Orlando Magistrate’s Court in Soweto if the six men accused of involvement in the Nomzamo tavern massacre were granted bail.

A resident who addressed the crowd outside the court – where the men were appearing – said if the police did not want the matter to get out of hand, they should make sure the accused are not granted bail. “If you want peace in South Africa, do not allow them bail.”


The case against six men accused of the massacre, in which 16 people were shot dead in January was postponed.

The case was initially set down for yesterday for one of the accused, however, the state said it intended to reopen its case. The court ordered the names of the accused and their pictures not to be made public.

State prosecutor, Inge Vogelpath, told the court the state wanted supplementary statements to be read into the record in a bid to oppose bail for accused number three.

This, however, could not go on as the legal representative of the accused was not in court and also his client was not well. Vogelpath said the accused had been unwell and had not been receiving proper treatment in prison.

“He has an abscess in the tooth… and he suffered a minor stroke. He is currently only receiving pain medication,” she said During his bail application in December, it was revealed that accused three was a Hawks branch commander who retired in 2020.

READ MORE: Nomzamo tavern massacre: Suspects’ bail hearing postponed to December  


He claimed the murders were caused by clashes between two Basotho rival burial societies, – “Terene ea Khosi Chakela” and “Terene ea Khosi Mokata”.

He testified the two groups assisted with the burials of miners from Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana who died in South Africa.

He said Chakela was formed in 2019 by members who had left Mokata after members were not happy about the way the burial society was being run.

“I joined Terene ea Khosi Mokata burial society in January 2021. Every member paid a monthly fee of R150 and the scheme had 900 000 active members.

“Initially, when I joined [Mokata], I was an ordinary member. Upon hearing that I owned taxis, they started hiring the taxis for funerals, I later occupied the position of secretary of the society.”

The accused said a week before the murders, a Chakela member was allegedly killed by Mokata members. He said the Chakela members then sought revenge and they had heard their opponents were at the tavern where they started shooting randomly.

‘Wrongfully arrested

He, however, claimed he did not understand why he had been arrested as he was the one who was trying to assist the police arrest those involved in the killing.

“When they got to the tavern, accused one and two didn’t go inside to see if our members were there. They just started shooting while standing outside.

Fortunately, our members had already left the tavern when they arrived. They even killed some of their members,” he said.

“Accused one wanted to join our society because his fellow members threatened them. He was looking for protection from us.

“I told him I could take him over to the police since I was a former officer. A few days later, I handed him over at the Norwood police station. We then went to Kimberley to fetch his father-in-law to be arrested.”

Investigating officer Colonel Friccah Masilela said although it was true accused three undertook to help the police, he gave misleading advice, derailing the investigations. “It is evident the applicant has intimate knowledge of working of the groups and is closely involved in the business,” he said.

NOW READ: Soweto tavern killing update: Deaths rise to 15 as two shot in Katlehong


The six suspects are facing 19 murder charges and one charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances. The three other murders were committed before the Nomzamo massacre.

Sihle Mkhize, who lost four family members, said the image of the brutal manner in which the group was killed had not left him.

“We saw some of them fall right in front of our eyes. What I saw there keeps coming back to my mind. I can’t forget about it.”

Mkhize said the only outcome his family would be satisfied with was for the accused to be sentenced. “These people had children and wives. We are trying to accept the situation but the only thing that can bring us peace is to see them being sent to jail.”

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