Ri­tual mur­der fears hover over Ngcul­wini on eve of elec­tions

…Four years since the dis­ap­pear­ance with­out trace of Bongiwe Vi­lakati (8) one Au­gust af­ter­noon in the 2013 elec­tion year, res­i­dents be­gin to sight strange move­ments next to where the girl van­ished and women go in groups to the only source of wa­ter at the

Observer on Saturday - - News - By Ackel Zwane

Lit­tle Bongiwe Vi­lakati (8) had gone to Ngcul­wini Nazarene Pri­mary to col­lect her per­for­mance re­port of the sec­ond term around this time in Au­gust 2013 but never re­turned home and her fam­ily hope at least to clutch on some sem­blance of her re­mains, just for the sake of clo­sure.

They ap­pear to have come to terms that the worst hap­pened to the lit­tle girl but there is no ev­i­dence to con­firm the ul­ti­mate fears.

Four years later, her Grade 2 peers are on the eve of sit­ting for the pri­mary school leav­ing cer­tifi­cate but all with­out her. Back at home her two grannies sim­ply keep to gather to shed a tear or two in her mem­ory, hop­ing that some day word would spread around that her re­mains had been found, oth­er­wise they have noth­ing to say save that they have not given up the search even though they have combed just about ev­ery part of Ngcul­wini.

It would seem po­lice gave up the search be­cause they only came around to join the search par­ties dur­ing the days fol­low­ing the girl’s dis­ap­pear­ance but they have not been there since.

“They would keep us aware that they were also go­ing ahead with the search but soon af­ter they stopped, maybe they have aban­doned the search,” says the pa­ter­nal aunt.

Af­ter the fam­ily sent a cry for help, the en­tire Ngcul­wini com­mu­nity combed the nearby bushes es­pe­cially the farm across the river where peo­ple of sus­pi­cious char­ac­ter are usu­ally spot­ted but came out with no re­sults even af­ter weeks on end.

The search par­ties in­cluded even the po­lice and lo­cal com­mu­nity po­lice groups. Although the el­derly women could not iden­tify other groups from the civil so­ci­ety they re­call that it was around that time that the hu­man traf­fick­ing cam­paigns be­came reg­u­lar on na­tional ra­dio.

“We wept un­til tears were dry but hope was reignited on hear­ing news that oth­ers had been re­united with their lost ones or had dis­cov­ered their re­mains but this hope was not to last.” The el­derly woman says news that some traf­ficked per­sons are res­cued and repa­tri­ated to their coun­tries is en­cour­ag­ing but it would seem this is far­fetched for the Vi­lakati fam­ily.

Vil­lagers say it is rather un­usual for peo­ple to dis­ap­pear with­out trace at Ngcul­wini save that this time around they have be­gun to no­tice strange move­ments of sus­pi­cious per­sons emerg­ing from the nearby farm. As a re­sult, women go in groups to fetch wa­ter from the only source at the river di­vid­ing the com­mu­nity and the farm. On the other end of the farm is Bongiwe’s school.

How­ever, ru­mour has it that some vil­lagers spot­ted an un­known male clad in welling­ton boots who had packed a ve­hi­cle at the low­bridge lead­ing to the school and car­ried the girl on his shoul­ders, how­ever there is no one to col­lab­o­rate this story, save for the talk among the com­mu­nity.

An el­derly man re­cently re­turn­ing from a wed­ding party was of­fered a lift with­out hitch­ing by strangers near LaMantshonga shop­ping com­plex but his wis­dom told him oth­er­wise and is said to have told the ‘good sa­mar­i­tans’ that he would not board the ve­hi­cle be­cause he could see that they had started with their il­licit elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns of ri­tual mur­ders. He is said to have shouted so loud that peo­ple in sur­round­ing home­steads heard him and the ve­hi­cle sped off. He lives to this day to re­late his en­counter at the slight­est op­por­tu­nity of a will­ing ear.

Women say they no­tice move­ment of strangers who ap­pear to be hunt­ing for those go­ing to fetch wa­ter at the river. On the vil­lage side of the val­ley, how­ever, the vil­lagers are able to spot those move­ments and call each other to go as a group to fetch wa­ter and the strange move­ments are scared away.

“Our great­est fear is for the young chil­dren now that we are near­ing elec­tions, the hun­ters may pounce again given these strange move­ments.”

Last year po­lice re­ported that 95 teenagers were re­ported miss­ing since the be­gin­ning of that year. The miss­ing teenagers were aged be­tween 12 and 17 years and were re­ported to have gone miss­ing mostly dur­ing the months of March, Jan­uary and May.The num­ber added to the to­tal of miss­ing per­sons in the coun­try, which stood at a star­tling 212 in seven months at the time. The data was tal­lied up to end of July, 2016.Also form­ing the num­ber of miss­ing per­sons is an age group be­tween 18 and 24, in which 50 have gone miss­ing in the months of Jan­uary, Fe­bru­ary and May.The statis­tics also re­veal that Jan­uary had the most num­ber of miss­ing peo­ple as 39 dis­ap­peared in that month alone.

This was fol­lowed by March, where 38 peo­ple were re­ported miss­ing and then Fe­bru­ary and May, in which months 32 were re­ported miss­ing. In the month of June a to­tal of 27 were re­ported miss­ing, 26 in April and 18 in July. It also showed that dur­ing 2013 po­lice re­ported that in 2011, the num­ber of miss­ing peo­ple had dou­bled com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year. They re­vealed that the most tar­geted were al­bi­nos.Out of the 484 peo­ple re­ported miss­ing in 2011, at least 159 were not found.

Some of the miss­ing peo­ple were lo­cated but found dead.An av­er­age of 32 per cent of peo­ple re­ported miss­ing dur­ing the pe­riod, 2009 to 2011 had not been found.This trans­lates to about 303 peo­ple. Women and chil­dren were the most tar­geted ac­cord­ing to the re­port.

TEARDROPS: Bongiwe’s two grannies with her aunt re­lat­ing how each day with­out the miss­ing eight-year-old has been a tor­ment for the past four years.

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