Inside Pinetown’s mob justice killings
It was a simple misunderstanding but it sparked a case of instant street justice that left two innocent men dead – now their families are trying to pick up the pieces
IT WAS his first month at a new job and his family couldn’t wait for him to come home and tell them what he’d seen on the road as an assistant driver at one of Durban’s largest distribution companies. They became alarmed when Lucky Sefali (28) didn’t arrive home at his usual time, so his sister, Ntombenhle Mlo Zangwa, started searching for him. “I went to his workplace and one of his colleagues told me he was last seen at a taxi rank in Pinetown,” she says.
And it’s here Lucky spent his last harrowing moments on Earth. He and a friend, Mlungisi Nxumalo (43), were attacked by a mob in a horrifying case of instant street justice – and they’d done nothing wrong.
Mlungisi had been asked by his friend, Bukisa Cele, to watch his 11-year-old mentally handicapped son while he bought the boy food at a nearby stall.
The child started screaming – he was prone to sudden outbursts – and bystanders suspected Mlungisi of kidnapping the boy. Lucky saw what was going on and tried to help – so the crowd beat, kicked and pummelled the pair to death.
Mlungisi’s sister, Ntokozo Mbanjwa, was at the taxi rank at the time. “It happened in front of me. There was blood everywhere and he was badly injured. I could see they wanted him dead. It was a horrific sight so I decided to leave. I didn’t know they were killing my brother.”
The attack was caught on camera and posted to social networks where it spread like wildfire. In one clip, Lucky is seen being stoned and kicked by the angry crowd. As he slowly moves his head his attackers take turns beating him with sticks. They’re also seen bashing his head to the ground.
Ntombenhle is devastated by the foot- age. “It was trending on Facebook but I didn’t recognise his face. One of my friends sent me a photo on WhatsApp Only then I realised it was my brother.”
She’s troubled by the tragedy. “I can’t sleep at night. I’m haunted by the video clips, the photos and the scars on his body.”
According to Ntombenhle, the mob continued to assault Lucky and Mlungisi – even though Bukisa’s son had already been taken to a nearby police station.
Now Lucky’s distraught family is planning a campaign to educate people about the dangers of mob justice.
IT’S a classic case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Ntombenhle says. “Lucky had just arrived at the taxi rank when the commotion started. He realised his friend Mlu was being mobbed and tried to
But the crowd attacked him as well. “People thought he and Mlungisi were foreigners who are believed to be kidnapping children. He tried to escape but they chased after him. They found him and killed him,” she sobs.
Mlungisi’s brother, Thulani Nxumalo, says Mlu and the boy he’d agreed to watch for a few minutes were very close.
“We all know the boy is mentally disabled and has a habit of disappearing. Whenever he disappeared Mlu would find him and bring him home.”
That tragic day was no different. “The boy took a taxi from KwaNdengezi to Pinetown. Bukisa panicked and phoned Mlungisi to ask him to search for his son,” Thulani says. By that time Bukisa was already at Pinetown taxi rank.
When Mlungisi found the boy wandering around the rank he took him to his father’s car.
“We’re told the boy was hungry and his father had to go buy him something to eat. It seems that as soon as his father left the boy had an episode which caused him to scream and be restless.”
Mlungisi loved children and would never harm them, his brother says. “Mlu was only trying to calm him down but the bystanders misunderstood it. We don’t know what made them think he was a foreigner trying to kidnap the child but within minutes the car was overturned and the mob attacked him,” Thulani says.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thembeka Mbhele says they’ve warned the community not to entertain fake news. “At the moment we have not received any information regarding foreigners kidnapping children. Again we urge people not to take the law into their own hands,” he says.
Bukisa was shocked at the violent scene unfolding when he returned from the shop, Thulani adds. “He tried to tell the mob he was the boy’s father but no one listened to him. He was also threatened. They called him a fake father and demanded he step forward. Seeing that his life was in danger, he stepped back and kept quiet.”
MLUNGISI didn’t deserve to die like that, his youngest son, Luyanda Nxumalo (13), says. “My father died for nothing, they killed him in cold blood. He didn’t deserve to die like that. I wish his killers knew how much pain they’ve caused us. We’ve lost a father. To you, Dad, I say goodbye. You taught us love and we experienced it. We will forever miss you,” he said at his father’s funeral.
Mlungisi’s daughter, Samkelisiwe Nyanda, also gave a touching tribute. “My father was a hero and he died like one. He cared for us, he encouraged us to excel in whatever we do,” she said of Mlungisi who leaves behind four children – Luyanda, Samkelisiwe (21), Kwazi Cele (21) and Nohlanhla Khanyile (13), and one grandchild, Bandile (1 month).
The family has forgiven Mlungisi’s murderers, his sister Ntokozo says. “To all those who attacked my brother and killed him, I forgive them. We have forgiven them,” she said at his funeral, which Bukisa also attended.
He was invited to explain to mourners what happened on that fateful day but declined. Instead he was sombre as he watched the funeral procession unfold.
After the funeral Mlungisi’s family paid a touching visit to Lucky’s family. “I’m sorry your son died protecting my son,” Mlungisi’s heartbroken mother, Thembelihle Khumalo, said as she held onto Lucky’s mother, Joyce Sefali.
Joyce is still battling to understand why the mob turned on Lucky. “He was only trying to help but they killed him. But it is well . . . It is well . . . I’ve accepted it.”
To help them heal, the family is embarking on an awareness drive, Thulani says. “We’ve always known mob justice is dangerous but we never thought we’d be a victim of it. I can only imagine how many people die simply because they’re accused of something they didn’t do.”
Lucky’s family will join the campaign, he adds. “We want to educate and warn the public about the dangers of mob justice. We feel people will understand it better if the victim’s family speaks up.”
No arrests had been made at the time of going to print but Durban police have appealed to eyewitnesses to come forward with information.
‘There was blood everywhere and he was badly injured . . . I didn’t know they were killing my brother’
FAR LEFT: Lucky’s mother, Joyce Sefali, is shatt ered by her son’s senseless death. LEFT: Mlungisi’s aunt Janet, his mother Thembelihle Khumalo and his sister Mbali at his funeral. They say they’ve forgiven his killers.