Is stock theft behind killings?

2013-03-17 10:00

An organised vigilante group that shot eight people at their home in Muden, KwaZulu-Natal, last weekend, may have targeted the victims because they were believed to be part of a family of cattle rustlers.

In the early hours of last Saturday morning, a group of men armed with AK-47s, and claiming to be police officers, arrived at the homestead of the Mkhize family in Muden, close to Greytown.

Four men and three boys died: Mngeni Mkhize (45); Mhlengi “Tonqo” Mkhize (37); Simphiwe Mkhize (32); Sibusiso Mkhize (18); Sizwe Mkhize (17); Sibusiso “Lungisane” Mkhize (16); and Tholinhlanhla “Fika” Mkhize (2), who died in hospital on Thursday.

The eighth, Bongani “Xegwane” Mkhize (21), is fighting for his life in hospital.

Police have not revealed a motive for the killings, but Muden is abuzz with talk that stock theft is key to understanding the tragedy.

Zamo Myaka, a Mkhize cousin, said: “As a family, we are aware there were rumours that our brothers stole cattle. They say the Mkhizes came here with no cattle. They are questioning where the cattle the family has now come from.”

Myaka asked why the police had never been called or got involved if the rumours were true.

Ward councillor Mbongiseni Dlamini confirmed stock theft was a big issue in Muden.

Residents told City Press that people, sick and tired of the spiralling stock-theft rates, had started taking the law into their own hands, forming groups to target those suspected of stealing cattle.

Dlamini disputed this, saying that usually when someone in Muden is suspected of theft, they will be formally accused at a community meeting and be given a chance to defend themselves.

Neighbours insist that, some hours before the attack on the Mkhize homestead, another homestead in nearby Mhlopheni was targeted.

While there were no deaths reported, the attackers in Mhlopheni were also armed with guns, residents said.

Police did not confirm the first attack but, whether it’s fact or rumour, Muden’s residents are terrified.

Many told City Press they were scared to sleep in their homes.

Moses Mkhize (46) will preside over the funeral of seven of his relatives today.

The eldest victims were his brothers.

The fact that his teenage son’s life was spared is little consolation for Moses.

Hlanganani Mkhize (17) usually shared the hut known as the “all-boys hut” with his cousins. But on Friday night, he decided to sleep in his grandmother’s hut.

When the shooting started, Hlanganani snuck out, crouched next to his father’s hut and warned him not to come out.

The killers initially identified themselves as police officers, which has left residents fearful of anyone in a police uniform.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said the killings would not stop police from working unusual hours.

People confronted by police officers must demand to see an officer in uniform and a marked van before opening their doors, Mdunge said.

An officer carries an identity document similar in size and shape to a credit card. People should insist on seeing it, he said.

Muden’s night of horror

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