Mourn­ers go on the ram­page

Fu­neral halted at the last minute and lo­cals burn down three houses

Sowetan - - Front Page - By Peter Ramoth­wala

The death of a man has sparked a vig­i­lante at­tack af­ter his fam­ily mem­bers found he had body parts miss­ing. James Makhubele, 69, from Blinkwa­ter vil­lage out­side Giyani in Lim­popo, was meant to be laid to rest on Sun­day, but his fam­ily were shocked to dis­cover his pri­vate parts were miss­ing dur­ing a body view­ing. Makhubele was be­lieved to have died in an ap­par­ent hit and run. But his fam­ily claimed he was killed and his body thrown on to the road to look like he was hit by a car. En­raged com­mu­nity mem­bers, who were at the fu­neral, torched three houses be­long­ing to three peo­ple they sus­pected of killing him and cut­ting the de­ceased’s body parts. Ac­cord­ing to rel­a­tives, Makhubele’s body had deep cuts on the thighs and had his pe­nis cut off.

Po­lice spokesper­son Col Moat­she Ngoepe said in­ves­ti­ga­tions have been broad­ened and a sec­ond post­mortem would be con­ducted. Ngoepe con­firmed the fam­ily had reg­is­tered a com­plaint, re­gard­ing miss­ing body parts of the de­ceased. Makhubele’s niece So­phie Maluleke, 42, said her un­cle was last seen at fam­ily gath­er­ing on Au­gust 3 when he re­tired for the night. “When we got home we found that he wasn’t there. While we were still wor­ried about where he could have went, some­body came to in­form us that my un­cle was hit by a car and he is dead,” Maluleke said.

“We found him drip­ping blood from his pants, but his trousers were still in­tact. “We didn’t check what caused the bleed­ing be­cause we im­me­di­ately called the po­lice to the scene,” she said. The fam­ily could not see Makhubele’s body for a week at the gov­ern­ment mor­tu­ary in Elim be­cause of a ser­vice de­liv­ery protest.

She said on Sun­day dur­ing the fu­neral, ru­mour swirled that her un­cle may have been a victim of rit­ual killings. “Two men from the com­mu­nity vol­un­teered to in­spect the en­tire body dur­ing the fu­neral pro­ceed­ing and found his pri­vate parts miss­ing.” The de­ceased’s brother Rexon said they im­me­di­ately called off the fu­neral and called the po­lice to do fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “We were shocked. What they did to my brother is in­hu­mane and I want who­ever did this to pay.

“We had al­ready spent R20,000 for fu­neral costs. We had no choice, but to al­low the mourn­ers to feast,” he said. The lo­cal head­man Jo­hannes Makhubele (not re­lated) said he was one of the peo­ple called to in­spect the body. “I un­der­stand my peo­ple’s frus­tra­tions be­cause there have been peo­ple killed in what is sus­pected to be rit­ual killings.

“What wor­ries me and my peo­ple is that when­ever this hap­pens, we sus­pect only one per­son and we take ev­ery in­for­ma­tion to the po­lice but noth­ing hap­pens at the end,” he said. The head­man said the com­mu­nity re­solved they were go­ing to con­front the main sus­pect but he was nowhere to be found. They burnt his house and of those be­lieved to be work­ing with him. Ngoepe said the de­ceased was knocked down by a mo­tor ve­hi­cle which failed to stop. A case of cul­pa­ble homi­cide was opened, he said. Ngoepe added that the sus­pects in­volved in the burn­ing of the houses were still un­known and no arrests were made as yet.

A po­lice­man at the lo­cal po­lice sta­tion told Sowe­tan a post­mortem re­vealed that Makhubele didn’t have any body parts re­moved.

/PHO­TOS / AN­TO­NIO MUCHAVE

One of the three houses which were torched at Hlan­ganani vil­lage, Giyani, by res­i­dents on the witch­hunt for sus­pects fol­low­ing the sus­pi­cious death of a lo­cal.

So­phie Maluleke, right, and Tsakane Baloyi.

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