Kathryn Kimberley and Michael Kimberley
WITH only a bundle of yellowing photographs to remind them of their mother who disappeared under mysterious circumstances 13 years ago, three Eastern Cape children are battling to come to terms with the recent news that she was kidnapped and brutally murdered.
Tandiwe Ketani was a loving person. She was not a threat. So why did a gang go to such extreme lengths to end her life?
Her puzzling disappearance came to a head last week, after a man discovered a bundle of letters under the floorboards of his Kenilworth home in Gauteng. They were allegedly written by one of Ketani’s murderers, confessing to the crime.
“If you are reading this letter then I am dead. Please do everything you can to avenge me,” was what grabbed the home owner’s attention.
The author of the letters had assumed they would only be discovered when he was dead and allegedly confesses to his role in Ketani’s murder.
The owner of the house had been renovating the property before new tenants were due to move in. He ripped up the old carpets, discovering the letters in the process. The author had apparently rented a room from him at the time of Ketani’s disappearance.
Ketani, 37, had moved to Johannesburg from Queenstown in order to financially support her three children who she left in the care of her sister. She found a job working as a chef in a restaurant and would send money home on a regular basis.
All of a sudden, she stopped – and her family never heard from her again.
This week, her sister-in- law detailed how the family had gone to Johannesburg at the time to search for Ketani.
“We looked in every hospital, mortuary and police station as far as Pretoria, but found nothing,” Lungiswa Ketani said.
A missing persons case was registered with police.
“At least now we know she did not abandon us,” the dead woman’s eldest son, Thulani Ketani, said.
The letters, as reported by Eyewitness News, further detailed how the woman was first shot in the head, then later kidnapped from a hospital in Vereeniging in May 1999.
Her assailants had left her for dead on the side of the road in Walkerville. However, a motorist reportedly picked her up and took her to hospital.
The letters allege that the group of men realised the hit had been botched and forged medical documents to kidnap her from the hospital.
Dressed in white coats, they brazenly removed her in a wheelchair as they pretended to transfer her to another facility. She later died and the men apparently buried her body under a concrete slab on the Kenilworth property.
According to the letters, her body was later exhumed and taken to a dumpsite in Booysens, where it was reportedly burnt.
According to Eyewitness News, the letters, addressed to an individual who cannot be identified, told the police where to find evidence such as video footage, photographs and recorded phone conversations relating to the abduction.
Five men, including the author of the letter, were arrested. They will undergo an identity parade relating to two other abductions and then make a formal bail application in the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court today. Two police officers are among the accused.
Thulani and his younger sisters, Bulelwa and Lusanda, said they were taken aback on hearing the news of their mother’s murder.
They are concerned that their mother’s body will never be returned to them. They want to bury her and make peace with what has happened.
“Her mother and grandmother died never knowing what happened to her,” Lungiswa said.
Thulani, who was in Grade 11 when his mother disappeared, said he flunked out of matric and was battling to find work. His physical ailments, which he blames on stress, have landed him in hospital on several occasions.
The siblings cling to each other for support as they tell of their hardships over the past 13 years.
“The men that did this to her must be arrested and rot in jail,” Bulelwa said. “They made my life a misery. I want them to pay for what they have done.”
Police have not yet disclosed a motive, despite two of the accused having allegedly confessed to the crime.