Tragic turn in lo­cal ‘ter­ror zone’

Mur­der of girl height­ens fears

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - ASANDA SOKANYILE

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.

PIC­TURE: CINDY WAXA

Nomzamo res­i­dents in Strand march in the area af­ter the court case of Mi­nen­tle Lekhatha, 5, who was mur­dered last week­end.

PIC­TURE: BHEKI RADEBE

The bridge in Strand un­der which Mi­nen­tle Lekhala’s body was found.

Mi­nen­tle Lekhatha

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