Zandile Mpanza had been washing clothes when an IFP headman and his brother repeatedly hit her with their hands and fists before stripping off her pants, the Umlazi Regional Court heard on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old mother of one was testifying in the “pants” criminal trial as the four men — accused of committing several crimes against her — watched from the dock.

Thulani Cele and his brother Sibusiso face charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, indecent assault, crimen injuria and malicious damage to property.

Sibusiso Cele is further charged with a second count of assault that allegedly took place on another occasion.

The remaining two accused — Sitha Nzuza, leader of the Inkatha Freedom Party youth group in Umlazi’s T Section and Wiseman Mzotho, a well-known pastor in the area — were not charged for the stripping incident.

They, along with the Cele brothers, however face additional charges of intimidation, malicious damage to property and incitement.

Mpanza’s story made headlines last year when the Cele brothers allegedly ripped off her pants and paraded her around the suburb’s T-Section half-naked. Later, along with the other two accused, they allegedly burnt down her home.

Mpanza’s ordeal was the result of her not complying with a ban that community leaders had placed on women wearing pants. The court heard on Tuesday that Mpanza was washing clothes about 500 metres away from her home on July 22, 2007 when the Cele brothers confronted her about why she had been wearing pants.

Minutes before being stripped, Mpanza pleaded with the brothers to let her change her clothes and put on a skirt.

“I noticed anger in their faces. I requested to take my skirt from the washing and wear it, but they did not give me the chance to do so,” Mpanza said.

Fighting back tears in court, she said it was then that she was repeatedly hit.

“Accused one (Thulani Cele) started assaulting me by hitting me with an open hand on my cheek, and continued to hit me with a clenched fist,” she said. Both accused then stood on either side of her “and tore my pants off”.

“They then continued to assault me and kick me in such a manner that I fell to the ground… but I was able to shield my face.” At that point she only had her panties and pyjama top on. She had been bruised all over her body. “They did this to me because they were men and I was a woman… with no rights in this country,” she said.

As Mpanza recalled her ordeal, a confident Thulani Cele was seen sitting in the dock smiling.

After the beating, Mpanza was able to get up. She began walking home half naked as “a lot of residents” stood outside their homes and watched.

“I felt so bad and was traumatised.” Both accused followed her. When she arrived at her home, the accused followed her inside. She told her mother what had happened. “

Accused one then raised a pan and asked my mother what he was holding in his hand.

My mother did not answer and then I asked why they had assaulted me,” she said. “Accused two once again hit me with his open hand and he did it in front of my sister, my mother and my child.”

The family were then ordered by the accused to pack up and leave the home as the community would be informed that Mpanza had not followed the rules.

Mpanza later reported the matter to police. Thulani Cele was later arrested at a soccer field. Mpanza was at the Umlazi police station when dozens of residents converged outside, demanding that police release Cele. “

The gates were closed and the crowd tried to forcefully open them…” Mpanza alleged that the police’s station commissioner then decided to release Cele as he did not have enough men at the gates. “

The station commissioner told the crowd that they must control their temper and he will release accused one.” The court heard that police spokesman Captain Khephu Ndlovu had offered to help Mpanza. Ndlovu had offered to drive Mpanza back home to gather some clothes and then take her to a place of safety as he felt her life, and that of her family’s, was in danger. After she was taken to a safe place, a neighbour telephoned her to say her home had been burnt down.

This after Thulani Cele had been released from jail. State prosecutor Arthi Sookraj handed photographs of the destroyed home to Magistrate Martin Prinsloo as evidence. The case continues on Thursday.