South Africa (GU) – Two people have been arrested following the murder on Sunday night of a 78-year-old Pietermaritzburg woman accused of witchcraft.
Adelina Mohlakoane and her husband Dennis Khumalo were attacked by residents of Copesville. Khumalo is in hospital.
Witnesses said residents of the Mason informal settlement had gathered outside the couple’s home. They had thrown burning tyres onto the roof and set the house alight. Mohlakoane had run away to hide in another house but she was dragged out on the road and attacked.
The couple were accused of keeping body parts in their house, said their daughter Qhamukile Memela. She said a tenant renting one of the rooms in the seven-roomed mud house told residents that her parents had hidden body parts, including a child’s hand and liver, in the room he rented.
“It all started during the day on Sunday. Community members gathered outside confronting my family about witchcraft and the rumoured human body parts inside the house. Someone in the ward committee called the ward councillor and told him about what was happening. He was in Durban at the time. The ward councillor called the police to attend the matter. After two to three hours two policemen came and they managed to disperse the crowd. They came into the tenants’ room and searched for the body parts which they did not find.”
Memela said residents had mistaken putty used on windows for a child’s liver. “ Police took that for tests and it has transpired that it was putty, according to the report from them,” said Memela.
Albert Williams, the couple’s son, said the residents had returned after the police had left. He had tried to save his parents from the mob. “Around 5pm, they came chanting struggle songs and shouting ‘they must die’. It was many of them. They demolished the fence and started throwing things. A neighbour helped my mother to escape but unfortunately they found where she was hiding. At the time I was trying to help my father escape. They caught my mother and beat her to death. My father also was brutally beaten. My mother died just like that. She was killed over rumours which are not even true,” said Williams.
Ward councillor Spha Madlala raised concerns about police handling of the matter. “When I first heard about the havoc I called the police. I made numerous phone calls but they didn’t attend to the matter sooner. It was when I threatened to call the minister of police that they attended to it. The reports I got from members of the community is that the havoc was not completely over when they left. After they left, community members came back, burnt the couple’s house and killed the old lady. People must learn not to take decisions over rumours. A person is dead because they believed the couple were witches.”
“This is a myth about gogos being witches. It’s very sad that we have lost someone because of a rumour. If people are not happy about anything, they should report it, not take the law into their own hands,” said Madlala.
A neighbour who asked not to be named said it is the first time such a thing happened in Mason. She said after this they are living in fear since police were not much help.
“Gogo Adelina was a good person and she loved her family. She had three rental houses and with that money she helped her family members. This is inhuman behaviour and it’s not acceptable,” said the neighbour.
Police spokesperson Nqobile Gwala said that two suspects have been arrested. “The suspects aged between 28 and 39 were arrested at Masons informal settlement, Copesville. They appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrates Court yesterday,” said Gwala.