‘I ran and hid naked’

2013-03-11 00:00

IN the early hours of Saturday morning, Bongumusa Mkhize woke to the sound of gunfire echoing across the his family’s Muden homestead near Greytown.

With his heart pounding and sweat beading his skin, he bolted, stark naked, and took refuge at a nearby stream.

In the aftermath, three of his brothers and three teenage nephews lay dead, gunned down execution-style.

“I was in my room when I heard people shouting outside. They were saying they were police officers and that they were looking for illegal firearms.

“The next thing I heard gunshots and screams from inside my brother’s hut. The attackers continued to the other hut, where male members of my family sleep, and shot them too. I managed to escape from this as my hut is the last one near the gate. I ran to the nearby stream and hid,” said Mkhize.

The extended family of 23 said they feared that the killers would come back and finish them off.

Lindiwe Nzama, the wife of one of the deceased, told The Witness that she and her husband were asleep when they were awoken by loud knocking and people shouting that they were police officers looking for illegal firearms.

“My husband went to open the door. As he opened the door the attackers shone a torch into his face and shot him several times. I don’t know what happened after that,” she said, sobbing.

Their two children, aged four and 17, were injured during the shooting. Her teenage son and her eight-year-old nephew, who was also in the room, are fighting for their lives in a local hospital.

Police spokesperson Colonel Vincent Mdunge said five assailants allegedly entered the homestead pretending to be police officers. Spent AK47 and handgun cartridges were found at the scene.

Police said the reason for the attack was still unknown, but a relative, Ace Mkhize, said there had been rumours for some time in the neighbourhood that members of his family were cattle rustlers.

Said Mdunge: “At this stage, the motive for the killing is not clear. However, there is speculation that the family was suspected of being stock thieves. All that will be investigated.”

Ace Mkhize said police came to the homestead in February looking for illegal firearms. They found one unlicensed gun belonging to a family member, Mhlengi.

He said the officers took him with them, but released him without charge. “He come back and told us that [the police] wanted R1 500 from him. Now we don’t know whether this attack is related to that visit,” he added.

Mdunge said they were not aware of the allegation and would investigate it.

The Muden area has witnessed running gun battles between thieves and a local vigilante group called Isikebhe, which was formed to fight cattle rustling in nearby Pomeroy.

Seven members of Isikebhe were ambushed and killed in August last year. Three men were arrested in November in connection with the killing. The three, Mzokhona Mnyandu (49), Sifiso Mathonsi (48) and Mthembeni Sibisi (57), were charged with the murder of Tshidili Hlongwane, Bonokwakhe Hadebe, Ndabembi Sithole, Dlezakhe Mbatha, Qondokwakhe Duze, Zola Langa and Phindela Langa.

Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu visited the Mkhize family yesterday and condemned the murders.

Mbongiseni Dlamini, ward councillor in the area, said he knew of the rumour that the Mkhize family was stealing livestock.

“This comes as a shock to us as leaders in the area as no one reported missing livestock.”

KwaZulu-Natal Community Crime Prevention Association chairperson and member of Isikebhe, Tall-man Zuma, declined to comment, saying the association would await the results of the police investigation.

• mlondi radebe@witness.co.za

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