2010-10-27 00:00

POLICE have vowed to work around the clock to find those responsible for the brutal murders of six slumbering people in what has been dubbed the “Shongweni Massacre”. The attackers also shot and wounded a woman and raped a young teenager.

The shattered community was yesterday trying to come to terms with the horror crime spree in which unknown gunmen stormed two homes, opening fire and killing a mother, her three children and a grandchild in Salem, Shongweni, just outside Durban, at midnight on Monday.

Ngenzeni Hlongwane (40), her children — Nokuthula (22), Thabani (18), Mthobisi (8) — and grandchild Talente (2) were asleep when the men stormed their home and shot at them.

Thabani tried to escape, but was shot dead outside the house.

Just a few hundred metres from their home, Khiphelakhe Magcaba was also attacked, allegedly by four men, while sleeping in a rondavel with his wife, younger daughter and granddaughter.

His elder daughter, Sizeni (32) ,was asleep in another house with her boyfriend Sthembiso Nxusa (29), who was shot dead, apparently after trying to stop the intruders from raping Sizeni.

The men allegedly pistol-whipped Magcaba and demanded money, guns and cellphones.

It is believed that the same men murdered Hlongwane and her children.

Magcaba said the men kicked down the door to the rondavel and after making their demands, forced him and his wife Bertina under the bed.

“They told me not to move and I could hear other voices from outside and they went to the other house where my elder daughter was sleeping. Her boyfriend was killed because he tried to protect her when the gunmen told my daughter to strip naked.

“She herself was shot just underneath the left breast, but the bullet went down the side,” said Magcaba.

He said he did not know what the motive for the attack could be, but said his daughter and her boyfriend were ANC volunteers in the area.

Hlongwane’s aunt, Getrude Hadebe, said she received a call at about 1 am yesterday informing her about the incident.

A shocked Hadebe said she did not know why her niece and children had to die in this way.

“Ngenzeni was not a bad person and I don’t know if she was involved in politics or any other activity that could have attracted enemies for her. They have wiped my brother’s name off the face of the earth and only God knows the reason,” she said.

Hlongwane’s father was shot dead in a night vigil in the neighbourhood in 1985 when unknown men stood at the entrance of the tent and opened fire at random.

In that shooting eight people died, including a five-year-old child.

Ngenzeni’s mother died in 1989 after a short illness.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal condemned the killings and provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala called on the community to work with the police to get the killers behind bars.

KZN police spokesperson Brigadier Phindile Radebe said the gunmen used pistols for the killings.

She said detectives from the Hawks were at the scene yesterday while members of the forensic science laboratory combed the area for clues.

“At this stage the motive for the killing is not known. The provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General B.M. Bongela, has put up a task team to investigate the matter,” said Radebe.

Spent 9 mm cartridges were found on the scene, but when The Witness reporter arrived at one of the homes after the police had left, relatives had found another three spent cartridges while clearing the house.

Radebe said there were too many people in the house, so the police might have missed the cartridges.

IN an incident related to the massacre in Shongweni, a young teenager was repeatedly raped by the gunmen.

The parents of the teenager were forced underneath the bed and the gunmen allegedly took turns to rape her above where they lay.

The horrified community said they need more police visibility.

The parents of the teenager burst into tears when asked to relate the midnight incident.

The father, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the victim, said he felt helpless when he had to lie under the bed while his daughter was violated by the thugs.

“I don’t know what to say or think. I’m shocked and I’m still trying to make sense of this incident. It looked like the men were possessed by the devil,” said the father.

The girl was taken to hospital.

Area councillor Fani Moya said Salem falls under Ndengezi police station, which is not efficient in serving the area. “We will take the matter up with the leaders so that something is done to remedy the situation,” said Moya.

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