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

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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

in­ter­vene.”

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’

TEXT & PIC­TURES: ZAMA CHUTSHELA

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.

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