Vanished without a trace

2014-11-01 00:00

A MAN’S search for his missing brother continues 20 years after he went missing, in a “cold case” tale woven with personal tragedy and political violence.

In the build-up to South Africa’s first democratic elections, a bright-eyed Kolekile Mashiyi travelled from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape to visit his brother, Mkhuseli, who worked as a doctor in Durban. Mystery surrounds the disappearance of Kolekile, a 26-year-old teacher, who had made the bumpy journey to Durban — and then vanished without a trace.

At his family’s behest, the hunt for him continues, with a relentless private investigator and the National Prosecuting Authority taking up the case.

Mkhuseli, who moved back to the Eastern Cape to practise medicine, says he is unable to reconcile the loss of Kolekile. He spoke of the day his brother disappeared in 1994.

“In a time when speaking Xhosa in a Zulu stronghold in KZN was dangerous. I thought he could come and spend those holidays with me in Durban. I brought him on a Sunday and we reached very late in the evening.”

The next morning, Mkhuseli left for work at King Edward VIII Hospital, leaving his brother at his Russell Street flat. “When I came back in the afternoon, he was not in the flat. I could see that all his belongings were in the flat, including all of the money he had with him.”

Mkhuseli said he was gripped by panic and rushed to the Broad Street police station.

“I ran to the police station and that time it was getting dark. I met a police officer and he told me that he can remember a man who looked like my brother who had been standing next to that police station for a very long time. He said the man had come inside and told him that he was lost, and that his brother is a doctor at King Edward hospital. Instead of keeping him there, they sent him away with directions to the rank for taxis bound for the Transkei.”

“I immediately went to the taxi rank and he was not there. In the following days, my brothers came from Mthatha and we searched all over at hospitals and mortuaries, and found nothing. To this day, we don’t know what befell him,” Mkhuseli said.

The doctor pointed to the political turmoil of the time, insisting that speaking Xhosa in a Zulu area could have had life-threatening consequences.

“In that time, if you spoke Xhosa, Zulus would think you are ANC and kill you, and I strongly think that police at that police station actually killed him, thinking that he was there for political reasons,” he said.

Top sleuth Christian Botha took up the case, and unravelled a web of dated documentation that gave the family a glimmer of hope. Working closely with the NPA’s missing persons task team, which traces those who disappeared during apartheid, Botha found a pathologist’s report of a man who was found dead a day after Mashiyi went missing and less than a block from the flat.

“We found pictures of the man, but the family are not convinced that it is their relative. We will continue to search and I call on anyone who may have information to please come forward,” said Botha.


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