Burnt bones found behind priest’s home, community baying for blood

2014-07-13 06:00

Workers laying a water pipeline behind the house of a priest this week made a horrifying discovery at the edge of the Pongola property: a pile of partially burnt bones, which they believe are human.

They stopped digging and called in their supervisor, who contacted police in the northern KwaZulu-Natal town who have been investigating the gruesome murder of Lungisani “Kiki” Ntuli. The little boy’s dismembered body was found in a bag in a room of the St John’s Apostolic Church in Ncotshane township last weekend. Several days of rioting followed, fuelled by the arrest of Bishop Zeblon John Nkosi, who was released by police on Friday afternoon.

Angry residents also burnt the home of a local woman, who has fled the township, after a bloodstained shirt and what is believed to be a piece of human liver were allegedly found there. They also torched the local courthouse after 14 of their colleagues were arrested for the attack on Nkosi’s church, which was petrol-bombed along with trucks and earth-moving machinery belonging to the priest, who according to residents also earns a living from construction and road tenders.

“There were what looked like finger bones, ribs and pieces of shoulder,’’ said one of the workers, who asked not to be named. “They looked like somebody had tried to burn them with petrol and failed. The police took some samples and said we shouldn’t touch them,’’ he added, pointing to fragments that remained.

SAPS spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane yesterday confirmed that the bone material had been sent for forensic analysis in Pretoria.

Zwane said Nkosi (51), who residents say arrived in the area around 15 years ago, had been released because of a lack of evidence.

“He did not appear in court and was released without the docket being enrolled,” Zwane told City Press yesterday. “We are continuing with our investigation.’’

Zwane refused to comment on whether Nkosi was still a suspect.

On Friday, a police vehicle stood across the road from Nkosi’s empty home in an upmarket suburb of the farming town. Neighbours were unwilling to talk much about Nkosi, who broke away from the St John’s Apostolic in 2003 according to elders of the church.

Nosipho Ncube, a local furniture store manager, told City Press Nkosi seemed like an “ordinary type of man”.

“I can’t believe [the allegations],’’ she said.

Yesterday, Ncotshane was tense but calm despite fears that the release of Nkosi could spark more violence. The road outside the church was still partially blocked by barricades erected during the skirmishes with police.

Residents were not happy about the release.

“This is not right,’’ said Zama Dladla (26). Dladla, a bricklayer, said she had been part of protests throughout the week.

“We marched because we are not safe here. Lungisani was not the first child to disappear here. We need protection from our government. I have a four-year-old child myself. What am I meant to do?’’

Other residents were more militant.

“We know there is a group of taxi people and business people who are linked to this through muthi. We know who they are and we are going to burn them out,’’ said one young man who refused to give City Press his name. “If police don’t stop them, we will.’’

On Friday, acting Premier Peggy Nkonyeni, backed by fellow cabinet members and district and local councillors and accompanied by an army of police and bodyguards, met with angry locals at the Ncotshane community hall. The meeting, at which leaflets about peaceful protest were distributed, coincided with Nkosi’s release through the back gate of the courthouse in Pongola town and diverted the attention of the township’s angry youngsters.

Nkonyeni and MECs Mike Mabuyakhulu and Sibongiseni Dhlomo battled to calm parts of the audience, many of whom had stoned cars and blocked the entrance to the township during a series of skirmishes with police earlier in the week. Nkonyeni called on residents, who initially heckled but later listened and left in an orderly manner, to allow the police to do their work.

Yesterday, Zwane said no incidents of violence had been reported overnight.

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