Eight men in the Glebelands Hostel case on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to a string of charges that include murder and attempted murder.
The trial, which has been set down until the end of September, is taking place in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermartizburg.
The accused are: former policeman Bhekuwazi Mdweshu, Khayelihle Mbuthuma, Vukani Mcobothi, Eugene Hlophe, Ncomekile Matlale, Mbuyiselwa Mkhize, Mondli Mthethwa and Bongani Mbhele.
They face nine murder charges and several counts of attempted murder.
They do not all face the same attempted murder charges.
Mdweshu also faces charges of racketeering and extortion. The crimes allegedly took place from 2014 to 2016 at the hostel in Umlazi.
The men did not offer any explanations to their pleas.
Prosecutor Dorian Paver said he will lead evidence to prove their guilt. He said the evidence will be that Mdweshu was associated with the activities at the hostel prior to his arrest.
It will set out to show that he was the leader of a syndicate along with another man who has since died.
The evidence will show that he participated directly in some of the offences, said Paver.
“I will be calling several witnesses to implicate him (Mdweshu) as the kingpin of the syndicate,” he said.
Paver added that he will also call witnesses to testify about the conspiracy to commit the crimes and when they took place.
He said that during the first attack there was some crossfire which led to Mdweshu being shot.
There are eyewitnesses who identified him as one of the attackers.
A swab from a plastic bottle with blood was taken and tested. It matched Mdweshu’s DNA.
Paver added that Mdweshu went to hospital to be treated and said he was shot during an attempted hijacking. He gave his employer a different story.
The State also intends calling witnesses who it says will link the other men to all the crimes they are charged with.
The first murder took place in March 2015 and the killings continued until March the following year.
It is alleged in the indictment that the syndicate was formed to kill anyone living at the hostel who threatened the syndicate’s control of it and of payments made by other dwellers.
Residents were ordered to pay the men under threat of reprisals. Conflict arose between the men and the residents at the hostel, resulting in them committing the crimes they are standing trial for.
The trial is set down until September 30.