Thirteen charged after 'witch burning'

Ntshwani, South Africa - Thirteen people, some of them teenagers, are expected in court on Friday after being arrested this week for the brutal beating and burning of a north Durban couple they believed had used witchcraft to kill children in their community.

The police said villagers of Ntshwani, in Stanger, had killed a 48-year-old man and his girlfriend last weekend. They were beaten with sjamboks, batons and sticks before being forced into their home which was then set on fire.

The community believed the couple were instrumental in the deaths of six children in the area by their alleged use of witchcraft. The children died over a period of two years. The police believe the children died of natural causes.

KwaDukuza police spokesperson Vishnu Subramoney said: "On Saturday morning community members of Ntshwani in Stanger accused a man, 48, and his girlfriend, 35, of performing witchcraft and killing six children over a period of two years.

We know the children died of natural causes. A group of about 15 people got together and assaulted them with sjamboks, batons and sticks. They then put them into a house and set the house on fire.

"We arrested 13 people, aged from 13 to about 60. One of them is the induna (chief) of the community. One suspect was also found in possession of an unlicensed firearm and rounds (of ammunition)."

The 35-year-old daughter of the man also lived in the community. She has been forced to flee for her safety.

All the accused face charges of murder and arson and are expected to appear in court on Friday.