‘If these animals are freed, we’ll kill them’

Khanyi Ndabeni

ANGRY residents of a small Eastern Cape town are baying for the blood of four teenagers accused of brutally raping a young Port Elizabeth mother before killing her and burning her body.

The charred naked body of 18-year-old Bonelwa Mkhokheli was found in an abandoned house in Nonkqubela township, Alexandria, on Saturday night.

Four suspects – three of them 16 and one 17 – were found the next morning after an all-night search by residents.

They were allegedly still covered in blood and one of them had the teenage mother’s cellphone.

Police spokesman Captain Ernest Sigobe said the four faced charges of murder, assault, arson, rape and theft.

About 500 residents, including schoolchildren, protested yesterday outside the Alexandria Magistrate’s Court where the four appeared briefly. They are due back in court today, but residents warned they would take the law into their own hands if the youths were granted bail.

“If these animals are released, we will kill them,” the crowd shouted, waving placards saying “They should rot in jail”.

Mkhokheli grew up in Alexandria but lived in Motherwell, Port Elizabeth.

She had travelled to the town – 100km along the R72 between Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred – at the weekend for a relative’s funeral.

After the funeral, she asked her grandmother, Nontintelo Gongqoba, to look after her one-year old daughter, Aqhama, as she wanted to say goodbye to a friend who lived a few streets away.

“We were so surprised when she didn’t come back or call to say she was sleeping over at her friend’s house,” the grandmother said yesterday.

“We only heard about her death the next morning when police asked the community through a loud-hailer to come forward if they were missing anyone.

“Even when we went to the police station, we were not expecting bad news.

“We were shocked to hear what had happened to Bonelwa.”

Gongqoba said the police had some of her granddaughter’s clothing found at the murder site. “A suspect still had her phone and claimed it was his but couldn’t even switch it on. I had to call her cousin who turned it on,” she said.

“As soon as she did, we saw pictures of her [Mkhokheli] and her child as well as a number of our relatives.”

Shocked townspeople said they would do everything in their power to make sure the four remained behind bars as they did not deserve to be around people.

Community leader Mvuyisi Mamase, who lives a stone’s throw from the murder scene, said his mother had seen flames and three boys running out of the house on Saturday night.

“She alerted me and we called the police,” he said. “When the fire was out, they saw the body of a girl. Her clothes were scattered around the house and there were bloodstains leading from the entrance of the house.

“We conducted a search and found some boys sleeping in another house.

“Their clothes were covered with blood and we handed them over to the police,” Mamase said.

At a community hall meeting yesterday, residents asked councillor Monica Mateti to demolish the house which is owned by someone in Port Elizabeth.

The sister of one of the suspects said vacant houses in the area attracted criminal activities .

“These houses are giving us problems. Boys smoke drugs in them and later rape and murder. The municipality must demolish them,” she said.

She said she supported any steps taken by the community.

“This was animal behaviour. We cannot bring back the dead girl so the best punishment is for [the suspects] to remain behind bars. If not, we will let the community deal with them,” she said.

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