The Swazi Serial Killer

Seldom does news from Swaziland reach the rest of the world. One exception was the recent “accidental” death in custody of opposition activist Sipho Jele (arrested for wearing an opposition t-shirt). However few people have heard of the Swazi serial killer, David Simelane.

Simelane was arrested 9 years ago after 34 skeletons were discovered in a forest near Mbabane. Amazingly no one suspected a serial killer was at large. People kept disappearing but no one seems to have suspected a connection. He allegedly offered people jobs and then, when they got in his car, spirit them off to the woods and dispose of them.  His victims were ordinary folk: women mostly, but also children. He has always maintained he was ordered by the government or the king to get rid of people.

The thing is, this man is now close to being released after the state’s star witness (a cop) died. It has just taken too long to come to trial. Now a self-styled ‘prophet’, a former praise singer for the king named Gcina Mthethwa wants to anoint the alleged serial killer a prophet. He argues that by doing so he will be teaching the Swazi people a lesson about forgiveness.

Whether he emerges from prison a prophet or just a plain sinner, it is doubtful whether the Swazi people will forgive him. If he survives long enough a free man, there are suggestions he could sue the state for his lengthy detention without trial. The case is unbelievably bizarre on so many levels -there is the seeming incompetence of the authorities, but the case itself has all the makings of an urban legend – poor people desperate for jobs lured to their deaths in the woods… One can only wonder if the facts of this mysterious case will ever be known.


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