Suspects accused of murdering gay man and burning body beyond recognition to stand trial

The murder case of a gay South African man is set to be transferred to the High Court where the four suspects will stand for trial.

A year after the murder of gay activist Sam Mbatha, suspects Arthur Khoza, 19, Thato Masetla, 22, Junior Modise, 21, and Mahlatsi Nkuna, 21, will finally answer for their alleged crimes in the High Court, in the North West, on 26 July.

On 17 June 2021, the burnt body of Mbatha was found charred beyond recognition in his car at a soccer field in Ikageng Section, Potchefstroom.

DNA testing was required for police to identify the victim, which took up to six months to come out and officially confirm to the Sam Mbatha’s family that they were his remains.

After investigating the case, on 21 June, police arrested Khoza, Masetla, Modise, and Nkuna at a house in Phutha Section, Klipgat in connection to Mbatha’s murder.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Henry Mamothame, stated that after police searched the house they found bloodstains on the floorboards, under and on top of the bed, and on the carpet, as per News24.

Sam Mbatha was a prominent figure in the South African LGBT+ space. (Credit: Twitter/Sam Mbatha)

Mamothame said that the murder weapon was an “axe suspected to have been used during the commission of this crime” which was found on the roof.

Khoza and Nkuna are out on bail of R500 (£25) each. Modise was granted free bail and warned to come to court while Masetla skipped his bail hearing.

Sam Mbatha’s uncle Cornelius Mbatha told News24 he was not happy that the bail was set so low: “We are happy that the case will go to trial. However, we are still shocked that their bail money was a mere R500.

“That means a person’s life in South Africa is very cheap, the dead one doesn’t have any rights, and the one who is alive gets to use his rights because R500 doesn’t make sense. They should’ve been a bit harsh with their bail. There should be fairness even if they are unemployed.”

The bail conditions require the suspects to sign in at Klipgat Police Station every Wednesday and Sunday between 5pm and 6pm.

However, this only causes more distress for Mbatha’s family as his uncle’s home neighbours the station.

“I live near the police station. I see these kids whenever they come to sign,” Cornelius said. How are we supposed to heal because we lost our son in their hands? This means we’ve got no right to heal.

“But they have the right to live and go walk around free in the community. And you can see that they do not have mercy and do not see anything wrong with what they did, they were celebrating that they got bail.”

Hate crimes are rife in South Africa and LGBT+ people continue to live under threat. In 2021, according to Mamba Online, Sam Mbatha was one of 24 LGBTQ+ people murdered in the country.