Tragic turn in local ‘terror zone’
Murder of girl heightens fears
THE grim discovery of the body of 5-year-old Minentle Lekhatha just 800m away from her Nomzamo, Strand, home, has left her paternal grandmother speechless.
The 1m-deep water below the 5m-long bridge along Soet River where the child was found, is filled with human faeces and rocks.
There are no traces of Minentle’s blood, which may be a good thing for her 47-year-old grandmother, who will have to continue to walk past the bridge when she returns to work after her granddaughter’s funeral.
Thelma Bomela, Minentle’s grandmother, is a domestic worker in a neighbouring suburb.
Since the gruesome discovery of Minentle’s body, Bomela has been spending her days in her five-room home in front of her paraffin heater, gazing at the wall.
Bomela said she was tired and her heart ached for her firstborn grandchild.
“I raised her. Immediately after her mother gave birth, I took her so that her mother could go back to school. We were best friends,” she said.
Two doors from Minentle’s home is a busy tavern, KwaMakhulu, with loud music. Patrons move in and out there even during the early hours of a Tuesday.
When Weekend Argus visited the house just off Ntanga Road in Nomzamo, people were already sitting outside, sipping beers.
With no fencing around Minentle’s home, access to the property is easy.
Next to the tavern is a thoroughfare to the Thembeni informal settlement where the accused rapist and killer lived – just metres away from her home.
The community use this path to connect to the Soet River just behind the informal settlement, connecting it to Broadway Road and nearby schools and places of work for community members.
The man on trial for her murder, Xolani Lantu, 35, is said to be her grandmother’s jilted lover.
Bomela would neither confirm nor deny this.
Lantu’s three-room shack is neatly tucked in a fenced yard with another shack next to it.
Since his arrest on Tuesday, neighbours said the structure had been locked, and nobody had been to the site. But residents are adamant that the shack be torn down or burnt.
Minentle went missing on Saturday afternoon while playing outside her home.
According to reports received by her distraught family, the little girl was left alone after the friends she was playing with were called away by their mother.
Speaking to Weekend Argus, Minentle’s uncle, Mzukisi Soldati, said it was evident that “she was familiar with the person who took her because nobody noticed anything unusual”.
As Soldati pointed out the route that would have been taken by the girl’s alleged killer, he grew emotional and turned back, as he could no longer continue along the path.
Walking along Soet River from Minentle’s home to where her body was found, a strong stench of vile, waste- filled water fills the air.
Residents of Nomzamo and nearby Lwandle have no choice but to walk along this pathway, which they now call a “terror zone”. In recent months, a number of muggings and rapes have occurred along the stretch.
“The discovery of the little girl’s body is just the worst. Things happen all the time here. You can’t even trust security guards along here because they mug you instead of protecting you,” said a resident who was waiting for someone who could walk with her from Broadway Road to Nomzamo.
“There have been reports of rape and other forms of violence, but we have never found a body here.”
Minentle’s body was found on the last day of Child Protection Week last week. Hers is the 21st killing in a spate of murders of little girls in the Western Cape since the start of the year.
Two days after the discovery of Minentle’s body, the bodies of a 22- year- old woman and her 2-year-old daughter were found in the bushes adjacent to Thambo Street in Atlantis.
According to police, the motive for the murders have not been established.
Nomzamo residents in Strand march in the area after the court case of Minentle Lekhatha, 5, who was murdered last weekend.
The bridge in Strand under which Minentle Lekhala’s body was found.