Jean-Jacques Cornish

Cannibalism court case gets international media attention

In South Africa, seven men will appear today (Thursday) in the magistrates court in the quiet Natal midlands town of Escourt to face cannibalism-related charges.

One of them intends pleading guilty, meaning the case will be escalated to the High Court.

The major of Estcourt Jabu Mbhele says the allegations of cannibalism have set the normally quiet town back several decades.

She was in court last month when seven men appeared on charges of murder‚ conspiracy to commit murder and possession of human body parts.

The case, now in the hands of the South African police services Occult Crime Unit, follows traditional healer Nino Mbatha walking  into the the local police station to report that he was in possession of body parts and was tired of being forced to eat human flesh.

Mbatha led police to his home where more body parts were recovered.

Mbhele is a personal victim of the alleged crime. A grave belonging to her husband was dug up and desecrated earlier this year.

She’s worried the case, which is attracting international media attention,  is making the people of Escourt  look primitive.

Mbhele now feels the work of rebuilding the community fragmented by this lies squarely on her shoulders.

She  addressed hundreds of protesters outside the court‚ urging them not to take matters into their own hands.

Among those protesting was placard-wielding Zama Ndlovu‚ who wants the police to act swiftly when the community report missing people‚ especially children.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.