'My brother was not a criminal' - relative of Zimbabwean man killed by Diepsloot mob

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  • The family of a Zimbabwean man killed by a mob in Diepsloot says he was not a criminal.
  • Mbhodazwe Nyathi was allegedly chased by a mob that then tied him up, assaulted him and then set him alight.
  • Minister of Police Bheki Cele was expected to visit the family.

In the dead of night, heavily armed members of the police's tactical response teams and public order police combed through the tightly knit shacks in Diepsloot, trying to keep the peace after a series of killings and protests. 

Despite this, before the sun rose on Thursday, gardener Mbhodazwe Nyathi's body was sprawled on Thubelihle Street, metres from his home. He had been killed the night before, allegedly by a mob.

Additional police were deployed to the area on Wednesday after several people were killed at the weekend, which led to mass protests.

According to his family, the Zimbabwean national and father of four had just come home from work when a mob ran through his neighbourhood chasing a group of people, knocking on doors and asking for ID documents. 

"My brother, his wife and others hid behind their shack and the group found them and started chasing them because they thought they were criminals," said Nyathi's brother Godknows. 

ALSO READ | Mob kills Zimbabwean man in Diepsloot hours after Bheki Cele visits area

Nyathi was allegedly caught by the group who tied him up, assaulted him and set him on fire. 

"We are hurt because my brother was not a criminal. I spoke to him yesterday when he was at work and after work, he came back home to Diepsloot and they killed him. My brother was a good person. He had a wife and four children," said Godknows. 

On Thursday, community members watched on sombrely as Nyathi's family cleaned his blood off the street and retrieved pieces of his clothing from the burnt rubble.  

"All I can say to the community of Diepsloot is if they catch someone they need to investigate if this person is a criminal or not. They can't just catch someone and kill them because they will only find out at the end that this person was not a criminal and was innocent," he said. 

Police spokesperson, Brigadier Brenda Muridili, had earlier told News24 that the mob had gone door to door at around 21:00 on Wednesday and demanded passports from foreigners.

When they entered one home, a man fled the scene, was chased down and killed, she said.

Residents said they could not speak to News24 as they were afraid for their lives. One woman, who did not want to be named, said she hid under her bed with earphones as the chaos erupted.

READ MORE | Cele to deploy specialist police teams to Diepsloot after 7 people killed over weekend

Eclick Maphalla said the men the mob were chasing jumped over a fence and hid behind her shack. 

"I couldn't sleep at night; there were people being chased by the community and they hid at the back of my shack. We couldn't sleep, we don't know why the community was chasing them; there were three of them," said Maphalla. 

Andrew Maleka, a community leader, condemned the killing. 

"We condemn this thing. Zimbabweans... this is their home and they are our brothers and sisters. One of these days we, as South Africans, are going to need them and we will have to leave South Africa to go to Zimbabwe for a better life because the situation they have in Zimbabwe is on its way to South Africa.

"If you look at how South Africans are living now, people are unemployed and there are no jobs," he said. 

Minister of Police Bheki Cele was expected to visit the family on Thursday.

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