To his friends and former rugby team-mates he was a teddy bear – quiet and reserved.
But on his Facebook page, former Blue Bulls rugby player Joseph Ntshongwana posted a chilling note only hours before the police found the headless bodies of two of his alleged victims: “THE TERMINATOR 1 – Arnold Schwarzenegger”.
The mystery of how the quiet, reserved Ntshongwana could allegedly have decapitated three men on an axe-wielding rampage deepened after his arrest on Tuesday.
Apart from the Terminator message, the 33-year-old’s Facebook page leaves little clue that a horror story was unfolding in south Durban.
Last Monday afternoon, half-an-hour before Ntshongwana’s car was allegedly spotted in Umlazi, he uploaded a gospel video on his Facebook page and commented: “Sweet Jesus”.
That night, Ndodo Hlongwana was killed and decapitated, allegedly by Ntshongwana.
His Terminator comment followed two days later, on Wednesday, at 6.44am – only hours before police found the two other bodies.
Early the following morning, at 2.22am, Ntshongwana wrote on Facebook: “Good morning everyone. Settlers u too quiet for my likeing. It’s been so long loVe 2 hear more from u.SWEET<>”.
“Settlers” referred to Ntshongwana’s alma mater, Settlers Agricultural High School near Bela Bela. He recently looked up old schoolmates on Facebook.
A former school acquaintance, Limpopo businessman Paul Moloto, told City Press on Friday that he had spoken to Nthsongwana last weekend – days after the murders and only days before the rugby player’s arrest.
Moloto said his former school senior didn’t indicate that anything was wrong.
“We recently became friends on Facebook. It seems as if he wanted to get in touch with old schoolmates and people who went to school at Settlers. At the weekend we spoke on Facebook and he requested my cellphone number. We talked about rugby and our schooldays,” Moloto said.
Although three years younger than Ntshongwana, Moloto remembered him well because of his size, build and because of his prowess at rugby.
“He was also a prefect when I was in Grade 9. He was not an aggressive guy. Even though he was strong and massively built, he never bullied us. Ja, big teddy bear-like. He loved rugby with a passion.”
After school Ntshongwana took to the big leagues and played for the Blue Bulls’ Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup teams and the Eagles’ Vodacom Cup team.
Former Blue Bulls centre Brendell Brandt played with Ntshongwana during 2000.
Brandt said on Friday Ntshongwana “never gave any indication that he was capable of doing something like this”.
“He was a very decent guy. He kept to himself and never made trouble with anyone. He would give his opinion on something when asked but he never tried to be the talk of the town. And he was very dedicated on the field,” Brandt remembered.
He didn’t remember that Ntshongwana ever spoke about his family or other interests, only that he was health conscious.
“He was very fit and would push himself during fitness training and always ended up breathing heavily. I used to tease him about it.”
A former rugby associate from Umtata who asked not be named, said he had played with Ntshongwana in the Sasol programme to promote up-and-coming black players over 10 years ago.
“He was a nice guy. He didn’t drink and certainly did not seem like a person with a violent streak in him. He seemed pretty normal,’’ he said.
Another teammate, Philip “Draadkar” van Zyl, said he couldn’t make sense of what has happened.
“A very, very nice guy and teammate. He was quiet, reserved and very dedicated to his fitness training. He was someone you could rely on in a game,” Van Zyl said.
But he also did not know Ntshongwana very well on a personal level.
“I saw him a long time ago. A lot can change in a man’s life in 11 years. It is very weird. Something must have triggered it.”
This week Ntshongwana’s neighbours in Yellowwood Park, Durban were just as shocked by his arrest. One neighbour who asked not to be identified said she “really couldn’t believe it”.
“He is such a friendly, caring neighbour who always seems interested in people around him. He pops in here to watch rugby all the time.
“When his father died about two years ago, he invited the entire street to the house. He’s helpful and is always checking if people are okay or need anything. The whole family are very friendly, decent people who are great neighbours,” she said.