Mi­nen­tle called her al­leged rapist, killer ‘chomi’

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

THE grandmother of mur­dered Strand girl Mi­nen­tle Lekhatha has bro­ken her si­lence about the pain and heart­break her for­mer lover has caused her and her fam­ily.

Xolani Lantu, 35, ap­peared in the Strand Mag­is­trate’s Court on Thurs­day in con­nec­tion with the June rape and mur­der of the 5-year-old.

Mi­nen­tle’s body was found in 1m- deep wa­ter be­low a bridge along the Soet River, about 800m from her Nomzamo home where she was last seen play­ing with friends.

“She was a happy and ac­tive child. He (Lantu) was friendly to­wards her and she use to call him ‘chomi’ (friend). He never showed any signs of vi­o­lence to­wards her or any of my chil­dren,” Thelma Bomela said.

The 49-year-old has been re­luc­tant to con­firm or deny she’d had a re­la­tion­ship with the sus­pect, but re­vealed to Week­end Ar­gus the af­fair with her younger lover.

Bomela said she met Lantu in 2012 through a mutual friend and be­gan dat­ing in late 2013.

“When we met he seemed de­cent and an up­stand­ing man. We shared a love for soc­cer and we both favoured Or­lando Pi­rates. We would of­ten watch games to­gether,” she re­called.

Bomela would not say when the re­la­tion­ship ended, but said it was due to his heavy drink­ing and bul­ly­ing.

A distraught Bomela said she could not imag­ine why Lantu could have hurt her beloved grand­child.

“I never re­garded Mi­nen­tle as my grand­child; she was my last born. He knew how close we were and how much I loved her. If he was mad at me and wanted to pun­ish me, like he said to the de­tec­tives, why didn’t he do what he did to her to me?”

Bomela re­called how she’d be­gun notic­ing an abu­sive and ag­gres­sive side to her part­ner, which prompted her to cool things off with him. “As time went on, I re­alised he was not good for me, he was a bully and a heavy drinker.”

The mother- of- three said her jilted lover had not only emo­tion­ally torn her apart, but also tar­nished her rep­u­ta­tion.

“Thanks to him peo­ple have been say­ing all sorts of things about me. How can peo­ple even be­gin to imag­ine I would sell my own flesh and blood out like that? The way peo­ple have been talk­ing about me is re­ally hurt­ful and it is all be­cause of him,” she said.

Two doors away from Mi­nen­tle’s home is a tav­ern. Next to it is a thor­ough­fare to the Them­beni in­for­mal set­tle­ment, where the ac­cused rapist and killer lived – just me­tres from the lit­tle girl’s home.

But said Bomela, this was not the route taken by her grand-daugh­ter’s snatch­ers.

Dur­ing his court ap­pear­ance this week, Lantu, dressed in a pair of faded black jeans and a green jacket, sport­ing short dread­locks, smiled at the packed court­room.

His case was post­poned to Oc­to­ber 10, Bomela’s 50th birth­day.

Mem­bers of the Lekhatha fam­ily who were in court said they were an­gered by Lantu’s ap­par­ent lack of re­morse.

Mi­nen­tle’s un­cle, Ernst Lekhatha, told me­dia the fam­ily was up­set that the per­son ac­cused of the rape, mur­der and kid­nap­ping of the lit­tle girl was some­one who “has never shown an ounce of re­morse since the first day”.

He added that in spite of their grief, the fam­ily would al­low the law to take its course. “There is noth­ing we can do but her mem­ory lives on, I will al­ways miss her. When I vis­ited her home, she would grab my car keys and sit in my car be­cause she would be afraid I would leave with­out her. She also loved singing.

“We are get­ting by as a fam­ily,” Lekhatha said.

Mi­nen­tle’s was the 21st killing in a spate of mur­ders of lit­tle girls in the West­ern Cape since Jan­uary this year.

Ear­lier this week, the body of 5-year-old Kaith­lyn Wil­son was found in bushes a few kilo­me­tres from her Bloedriv­ier, Riebeek West home. She was found on Sun­day after- noon, just hours after she dis­ap­peared.

The lit­tle girl’s eyes and nose were al­legedly cov­ered with black tape and some­thing had been stuffed in her mouth.

Two sus­pects, one of whom is the ex-boyfriend of Kaith­lyn’s mother, are in cus­tody.

asanda.sokanyile@inl.co.za

PIC­TURES: TRACEY ADAMS

Women protest out­side the Strand Mag­is­trate’s Court dur­ing the ap­pear­ance of Xolani Lantu, 35, ac­cused of the mur­der, kid­nap­ping and rape of 5-year-old Mi­nen­tle Lekhatha.

Mur­dered Mi­nen­tle Lekhatha’s fam­ily ar­rive at the court in Strand. The 5-year-old’s aunt and un­cles, Puse­letso Lekhatha, Kutl­wano Lekhatha and Ernest Lekhatha spoke to jour­nal­ists.

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