Mob attack on suspect

2008-02-16 00:00

A MOB of about 800 Inchanga residents attacked the house of a “witch”, who they believe kidnapped, murdered and mutilated a nine-year-old girl this week.

Police were unable to control the crowd, and only the intervention of local political leaders saved the lives of the woman and her family.

On Thursday, the mutilated body of nine-year-old Nomthandazo Mhlongo was found after she went missing on Tuesday.

Yesterday, the crowd circled the suspect’s house, threw stones and tried to push through the razor wire fence.

A handful of police officers, who had gone to the house to investigate Nomthandazo’s death, watched helplessly as the drama unfolded. The crowd started singing “Who told you that a witch should be treated with kindness”.

Armed with axes, bush knives and stones, the mob attacked the house and a three-year-old girl was hit on the forehead by a stone.

Only the arrival of KZN Welfare Development MEC Meshack Radebe brought a semblance of control to the situation. Accompanied by local ward councillor Boy Shozi, Radebe picked up the bleeding three-year-old and called for calm.

Radebe also chastised the police for lack of planning in the investigation.

“If you had planned properly you would have taken this woman and questioned her at a safer place,” he said.

After hours of deliberations between the politicians and the police, it was decided that the family should be evacuated to safety.

More police arrived and they had to use teargas to disperse the crowd, which had grown restless again. Radebe said the family was to be moved and a task team will be appointed by Safety and Security MEC Bheki Cele to investigate the case.

The crowds were unhappy about the decision and threw stones at the police. SAPS, Metro police and Gagasi FM radio vehicles were damaged during the rampage.

Nomthandazo and her cousin Nonkanyiso (3) went missing on Tuesday. Her grandfather, Thembinkosi Buthelezi, said Nomthandazo and Nonkanyiso left to buy sweets at a nearby shop but never returned.

“They left at 4 pm and hours later they were nowhere. The family began searching for them in the evening but they were not found.”

At 9 pm, Nonkanyiso was brought home by a local boy, Mthandeni Mbanjwa, who said he came running into his house, about five kilometres away. “He came into my house running; he was covered with faeces from head to toe. We washed him, gave him clean clothes and gave him something to eat.”

When asked what had happened, the little boy said that he was running away from two people in a car.

Buthelezi said Nonkanyiso told the family that his cousin had been killed. Her body was found about 200 metres from the alleged witch’s house, lying face down.

Superintendent Vincent Mdunge said that one of Nomthandazo’s eyes had been gouged out. He said that a 19-year-old boy has been taken in for questioning.

“We are investigating cases of murder, kidnapping and malicious damage to property.”

He said the motive for Nomthandazo’s killing is unknown at the moment. But he confirmed that the community is convinced the family is practising witchcraft.

Mdunge warned the residents that “vigilantism will not be tolerated; people should allow the law to take its course”.

Nomthandazo’s mother, Samkelisiwe Mhlongo (25), said she was deeply saddened. “My heart is bleeding for my child. I don’t know what life will be like without her.”

Nomthandazo was a grade three pupil at Imbaliyezwe Primary.

Shozi said another girl child of about the same age as Nomthandazo was found mutilated some years ago.

“In 1996, another girl was found with ears, tongue and private parts missing. Last year another girl, probably aged 10, went missing for a week but was found later. The community has repeatedly pointed fingers at the same family.”

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