He had a smile that could light up a room. And now it's been dimmed forever.
When Ezra Mahlangu accompanied his grandparents to the funeral of a relative not far from his own home, his family had no idea that it would be his last hours on earth.
The 16-year-old teenager, who is autistic and non-verbal, went missing for three weeks, only to find out he's been lying in a slab in the mortuary most of that time.
His brother, Surprise Mshwana, tells Drum what happened. His grandparents attended a funeral in Soshanguve Block XX on Sunday, 28 August.
They took Ezra with but he stayed in the car eating while they went inside.
“They arrived at the funeral in the afternoon at around 2pm, and as usual they went inside to greet the family members and our grandfather was not feeling well because of old age,” Surprise says.
“So our grandfather asked to lie down on the stoep for some rest and Ezra was left in the car because he was busy eating, he came with his food from his home in Soshanguve Block CC. He was in the car they whole time my grandparents were inside to greet.”
Surprise says soon after his grandfather dozed off, they realised that Ezra had been in the car for too long, which raised concerns.
“One of our relatives from the funeral asked about his whereabouts, and my grandparents said he’s in the car eating. She went to check him out and said she can't find him.”
He says this was around 3.30pm to 4pm.
“And that is when they realised that Ezra was no longer in the car. They started searching for him everywhere from the streets in the neighbourhood, and he was nowhere to be found.”
He says it started getting late and their last resort was to go file a missing person's case at Rosslyn police station.
“Ezra was diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder so he is unable to speak, and he didn’t have a phone with him or anything that we can use to track him, that’s why my grandparents had to quickly drive to the police station to report a missing person.”
They searched for Ezra for three weeks and they recently found his body at a mortuary.
They were told that Ezra died the day after he went missing. This left more questions than answers for his family.
“On Wednesday last week (21 September), my grandmother was contacted by one of the police officials who has been working on my young brother’s case. He said it is almost a month now since the child has been missing, let us go and check at the mortuary.”
Surprise says after the call from the police official, they went to the mortuary in Ga-Rankuwa Zone 5 and that's where they found Ezra.
“We were shown two bodies of missing teenagers and one of them was my little brother, Ezra. We confirmed as the family to the police and were told [at the mortuary] that they received two unknown bodies on the 29th of August.
“We were confused as to what had happened and according to the information that we received, my little brother was found at Mabopane highway, so we are not sure about the cause of the death.”
Surprise says his body had injuries that they suspected could be from a hit and run.
“Maybe he was hit by a car or something that is why I say that we are not sure about what have happened to him. Weare not even sure if an ambulance was called then certified him dead on the scene, we are just confused.
“We don’t even know the time of his death, but what we know for sure is that at the mortuary they say that he was received on the 29 August,” he says.
He says their wish as a family is for those responsible for the death of his younger to take accountability.
“Yes we have found him dead but now we have a lot of questions really. We want to know what happened to him, why was he kept in the mortuary for the whole three weeks? Without anyone trying to reach out? Since the 29 August when he arrived at the mortuary to last week?
“It has been almost a month of us searching for him everywhere through posters in the community and nobody knew anything, so we need answers,” he says.
“Someone must be held accountable for it, whether it’s a hit and run or accident or whatever it may be, there must someone who comes forward [regarding] the loss of my little brother. We are so devastated and it is difficult to mourn with these questions in our minds,” says the troubled brother.
Gauteng police spokesperson captain Mavela Masondo confirms to Drum that an inquest docket was opened after the body of a 16-year-old boy was found on the side of the R80 freeway in Soshanguve.
“Post-mortem results were released and suggest that the boy was hit by a car. Police have now opened a case of culpable homicide and are searching for the driver of the vehicle.”
He says that they police are appealing to anyone who might have information that can assist in finding the driver of the vehicle, “or in the investigation to please call the nearest police station or crime stop on 08600 10111.”
Ezra will be laid to rest at his home on Saturday, 1 October in Soshanguve Block CC.