‘Cops don’t care about catching my brother’s killer’

Ethiopian refugee Tagesse Letabo holds up a photograph of his brother, Etebo Kebede, who was shot and killed in his shop. Picture: Ian Carbutt
Ethiopian refugee Tagesse Letabo holds up a photograph of his brother, Etebo Kebede, who was shot and killed in his shop. Picture: Ian Carbutt

Tagesse Letabo believes the police are not interested in catching the people who killed his elder brother, who was gunned down inside his tuck shop in Imbali, Pietermaritzburg, last Thursday, hours after an anti-xenophobia march in the city.

Letabo is angry that, despite the fact that there were witnesses to the shooting and the fact that he reported a series of escalating threats from some residents against him and his brother, Etebo Kebede (42), prior to the murder, police still haven’t made any arrests.

A letter ordering the two to close their shop for good and get out of the city was circulated, allegedly by a rival shop owner, two weeks ago.

Letabo and his brother reported the threats to the police, only to be told the situation was under control.

Last month, Kebede closed the shop because he feared being attacked during the first wave of xenophobic violence in KwaZulu-Natal.

“There were witnesses. People saw what happened. There were people who were threatening us, telling us to get out of the area before my brother was killed. The police know who they are. They don’t do anything. They don’t care about my brother. The guys are there in Imbali, but the cops aren’t interested,” Letabo told City Press on Friday.

Letabo has moved to Johannesburg to try to get enough money together to travel back to Ethiopia. He intends to pack up his belongings in Pietermaritzburg before he leaves South Africa for good, but won’t go near the shop he and his brother started when they arrived in the city in 2011.

“What do you want me to do? Stay here and die? If I go to the shop, I will be shot too,” he said.

Letabo said Kebede was popular in the Ethiopian community and with his customers in Imbali’s J Section and had only recently reopened the shop.

Letabo stayed behind at their rented flat in the city’s Ethiopian quarter during the march to make sure their belongings were safe. He was meant to join his brother at the shop after the march.

“I didn’t want him to go to the shop, but he said it was safe. He didn’t think anything would happen,” Letabo said.

But Kebede called him that evening to tell him not to come because it was dangerous. The call was cut after his brother said there were men with guns outside.

Police later found Kebede on the shop floor. He had been shot through the metal bars.

In nearby Greytown, Congolese hairdresser Lumona Ziko was stabbed to death outside his home last Sunday, four days after returning home from the town’s shelter for xenophobia victims. Ziko (37), a refugee who fled war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo four years ago, spent last month in the camp after being beaten during attacks in March.

Last week, community leaders negotiated the return of Ziko and other refugees who were unable to go back to their home countries.

Police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane confirmed no arrests had been made in connection with either killing.

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