Murdered UCT student always dreamt of moving to Cape Town – childhood friend

2019-10-02 14:06
Mhleli Cebo Mbatha (Supplied)

Mhleli Cebo Mbatha (Supplied)

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Murdered student Mhleli Cebo Mbatha had fulfilled his dream of moving to the Mother City when he was accepted to study at the University of Cape Town (UCT). But within less than a year, his family had the heartbreaking task of collecting his body after his murder.

"He knew what he wanted in life – to go to UCT, get his master's and become an entertainment lawyer," his childhood friend Cedrick Mkhize, 19, told News24.

He had been one of the speakers at a memorial service held at Go Green Student Accommodation in Rondebosch, where Mbatha lived.

The two had met when they both attended Dundee Junior School in KwaZulu-Natal. Mkhize calls Mbatha "Cheese" – a nickname he earned at a young age because he was always smiling.

"He was in Grade 10 when he told me he wanted to move to Cape Town. During our matric trials, he called me up and asked, 'Are we still doing this?' I asked him what he was talking about and he reminded me about moving to Cape Town.

"He had only applied at UCT because he had always dreamt of moving here. He said he wanted a clean slate, to reinvent himself around people who would appreciate his energy."

Cedrick Mkhize speaks at his friend Mhleli Cebo Mb

Cedrick Mkhize speaks at his friend Mhleli Cebo Mbatha's memorial service. (Supplied, Glenda Sartor

Mbatha, who was studying law, was stabbed in the chest during an apparent robbery at Clifton Third Beach on Saturday night. He was 18 years old.

His friend was knifed in the leg and taken to hospital, while two female students who were with them escaped physical injury.

According to his family, the assailants wanted to take their cellphones.

Master's student Sizwe Lekoba met Mbatha in February when he arrived in Cape Town. He called his friend a "comedic genius".

"He had a presence you wish could bottle up and put in your fridge to open up in sad times," Lekoba said.

Students at Mhleli Cebo Mbatha's memorial at the G

Students at Mhleli Cebo Mbatha's memorial at the Go Green Student Accommodation in Rondebosch. (Supplied, Glenda Sartor)

"I am 24, Cheese was about to turn 19. There was a five-year age gap but we nonetheless spent a lot of time together. We had a younger-brother-older-brother type relationship, although he had this mentality that made me forget he was a first year. I used to spend more time with him than I did with people my own age."

He "broke down" when a friend called him early on Sunday morning, confirming that Mbatha had been murdered.

"I miss his charisma, his aura, his smile, everything. But mostly his presence," Lekoba said.

"You can actually feel that he is gone. There is a vacuum left - all my memories can't even fill the void that he has left."

Mbatha is expected to be buried on Saturday in Dundee.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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