Women in the Mthwalume region on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast no longer feel safe enough to brave the streets alone, after the bodies of six women were recently discovered in the area.
Since December 2019, bodies found in varying states of decomposition have been discovered in cane fields, sparking anxiety among restless community members, and fuelling rumours that a serial killer is behind the murders.
Police are not ruling out the possibility that the murders could have been committed by one person, but said that due to the state of decomposition the bodies have been found in, it has been difficult to establish a victim profile.
A K9 unit and a task team have been appointed to investigate the murders.
Forensic psychologist Gerard Labuschagne told The Citizen that whether it is the work of a serial killer or not shouldn’t matter now, but the important part was that a task team has been established to investigate the matter.
“As long as police are looking at the cases together, it doesn’t matter what they call it.”
He added that there is probably enough evidence to work the case with the angle that it is a serial killer, at least, until more information comes to light.
“But whether one or six people are involved in the murders, it doesn’t matter. The community would not be less worried with six suspects than with one.”
An average of 58 people are murdered in South Africa every day. 2019/20 murder statistics showed that murder rates increased by 303 between 2018/19 and the latest statistics. In 2019/20, 21,235 people were murdered in South Africa.
This brought the national murder rate to 36.3 per 100 000 people, according to Africa Check.
In KZN, a total of 4,859 murders were committed in 2019/20, giving the province a murder rate of 42.6. It is ranked third in the country in terms of murder rates.
4,161 attempted murders were reported to police in the province in 2019/20.
Preliminary murder statistics of women in South Africa totalled 2,695 in 2019/20.
The area of Mthwalume is made up of small rural villages. It is secured by the Msinsini police station. Hibberdene and Port Shepstone SAPS surrounding the Mthwalume area have been attending to scenes where bodies have been found.
The community recently vocalised their disdain of Hibberdene police due to no arrests having been made yet.
The Inkatha Freedom Party said it was unfortunate that the community has exhausted all means of trying to work with Hibberdene SAPS, to the point where a protest was staged, and resulted in community members being arrested.
Local farmer Siya Gasa told eNCA on Wednesday that he will be offering a R20,000 reward for any information that could lead to the arrest and conviction of those behind the murders. Three of the bodies found were located on Gasa’s property, one of which was found on Wednesday.
South Africa, and KwaZulu-Natal in particular, is not immune to serial killers.
The most recent case is convicted murderer Thozamile Taki, dubbed the ‘Sugarcane Killer’.
Taki was in 2010 convicted of murdering 13 women in the KZN and Eastern Cape in 2007.
His victims, aged between 18 and 25, were found dumped in agricultural plantations. 10 of his victims were found in sugarcane fields in Umzinto, and three near Port St Johns.