The murder of innocents

2011-04-09 16:35

After a three-year lull the perpetrators of vicious ritual murders have again unleashed a reign of ­terror that has communities in Limpopo living in fear.

Four women have been brutally murdered and their bodies mutilated in the past three months as ritual murders flare up again in the province.

Police and provincial lawmakers seem unable to implement key ­anti-ritual murder resolutions adopted four years ago at the Limpopo Conference on Ritual Murders and Missing Persons.

When the resolutions were adopted Limpopo had at least 57 unsolved ritual murder cases ­dating back many years.
In the latest cases:

» Tsatsawani Maria Macheke (74) was killed in February at ­Mahonisi village outside Malamulele and parts of her body were ­removed, her daughter, Joyce, said;

» The mutilated body of 66-year-old Mphephu Grace Baloyi of Jim Jones village in Malamulele was found in mielie fields two months ago;

» Mapula Botopela (81) and ­Cynthia Lemao (26) of Bokgaga village, near Tzaneen, were dragged out of their home on March 21 and stoned to death by a group of ­people who had accused them of witchcraft.

Their bodies were then set alight.

Eight suspects have been charged with ­murder and ­arson;

» Tsakane Machebe (22) said two men tried to grab her from ­behind when she went out to remove her laundry at night. The ­attackers ran away when they heard passers-by approaching;

» Simon Mushiana (47) of Khubvi village outside Thohoyandou had his leg sliced open with a grinder on January 31 this year, ­allegedly by a group of ritual murderers.

According to his brother, Rudzani, his attackers stormed into the house and gave him alcohol, which they ordered him to drink.

“Simon refused but one of the guys produced a grinder and cut his leg,” said Rudzani. “He says they did not speak to him or ask any questions during the attack.”

Simon managed to escape and run to a main road, where a passerby saw him and called police.

Thohoyandou police spokesperson Captain Mashudu Malelo said Norman Netshiumoni (40) and Robert Khavhadi (34) had been charged with attempted murder in connection with Mushiana’s case.

He said the suspects would ­appear in court on June 8.

Limpopo police spokesperson Hangwani Mulaudzi said police had set up a specialised ritual murder and missing persons unit in ­accordance with the anti-ritual murder summit resolutions.

He said the unit operated within the organised crime unit.

However, he could not say when the unit had been established, the size of its staffing complement and how many of the 57 ritual murder cases it had cracked so far.

“We are at a sensitive stage of the case and do not want to jeopardise the ongoing investigation. But at the same time, we regard these ritual murders as one of the priority matters within the police,” he said.

But Mulaudzi was contradicted by at least three independent ­police sources who said they were not aware of the existence of any anti-ritual murder unit.

“Every case of ritual murder that gets opened is dealt with by the ­local station,” said a police colonel.

Ishmael Kgetjepe, the chairperson of the Limpopo legislature’s safety, security and liaison committee, said they had implemented the declaration calling on the legislature to amend the law to ensure harsh sentences and conditional bail for ritual murder culprits.

But he could not give the date on which his committee had raised the matter with the justice department nor the names of the officials they had discussed it with.

Justice department spokesperson Tlali Tlali seemed unaware of a communique from Limpopo in that regard.

“They must tell you when they referred the matter to us, who they spoke to and which law they want amended,” he said.

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