Grinning accused appears for murder of 21-year-old MUT student Zolile Khumalo

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DURBAN, 03 April 2018 – The man accused of shooting to death 21-year-old Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) student, Zolile Khumalo, grinned repeatedly as he stood in the dock of the Durban Regional Court on Thursday.

Well-groomed and wearing a maroon hoodie and blue jeans, Thabani Mzolo, 23, entered the full courtroom seemingly unaffected by the murder charge he was facing and unaware of the 600 or so students that had gathered outside demanding justice for the slain woman.

This was the first appearance for the tall, slim Mzolo, who stands accused of shooting Khumalo – with whom he had been in a relationship – multiple times on Tuesday night at the off-campus residence at which she lived.

Mzolo, who had been a student at MUT in 2017 but is alleged to have dropped out, allegedly gained access to the residence via another student before gunning down his ex.

This has brought safety at residences to the fore, with some students slamming the institution for a lax approach to their welfare.

Mzolo’s initial bravado faded slightly upon entering the courtroom as journalists and photographers clamored for pictures, leading him briefly to cover his head with his hood.

But as soon as magistrate Mohammed Motala entered the courtroom, the young man flipped off his hood, revealing perfect teeth as he regularly grinned, drinking in the attention.

Those grins often evolved into broad, charming smiles directed at the media.

Outside the courthouse, students had gathered after marching from the Killarney residence in the city. Some clad in EFF regalia and others in ANC colors, they consoled one another, others looking on curiously, some young women were visibly distraught.

Eager to enter the courthouse, the students grew restless as only a limited number were granted access. They eventually walked up to the large police contingent stationed outside the glass doors, trying to push their way in, but quickly retreated as officers armed with rubber bullets stepped forward.

Mzolo’s appearance was brief, with the state asking that he be remanded in custody for seven days while bail investigations were undertaken.

Magistrate Motala agreed, telling Mzolo he would return again on 10 May, “to see if you qualify for bail”.

Before he was led down the stairs from the court, Mzolo again smiled for the flashing cameras, then he lifted both arms and made trigger signs during his casual descent to the holding cells.

The case is playing out at a time when South Africans are experiencing a heightened awareness of women being killed by their intimate partners, with data indicating that one such murder occurs every eight hours.

A little more than an hour after Mzolo’s appearance, and in a case that gripped national headlines, Sandile Mantsoe was sentenced to 32-years in prison after being found guilty by the Johannesburg High Court of killing his 22-year-old partner, Karabo Mokoena.

– African News Agency (ANA)