“The last time I saw my child was at 7 o’clock [on Saturday morning] when I was [leaving] for work.”
Siyabonga Bomela‚ 24‚ could not hold back his tears as he recalled the final moments spent with his five-year-old daughter Minentle Lekhatha.
Bomela remembers her smiling and laughing that morning‚ after he joked with her and her younger brother that they were only ever the first ones awake on weekends‚ but never on school days.
“She was very brave‚ energetic and beautiful…that was the last time I saw her‚” he said. More than 24 hours later her body was found under a bridge in Strand.
Lekhatha is one of at least 21 girl children murdered in the Western Cape this year‚ according to MEC for community safety Dan Plato.
Her 23-year-old mother‚ Thandisiwe Lekhatha‚ has since been hospitalised after suffering a nervous breakdown.
Lekhatha was reported missing by her grandmother‚ Selma Bomela‚ on Saturday evening. She had been playing with her friends at about 1pm just 20 metres from her home in Nomzamo‚ Strand.
A team of relatives‚ police and community members searched throughout the night. But the primary school girl’s body was only discovered on Sunday afternoon‚ by a group of boys playing near the bridge.
Selma said that her granddaughter’s body had shown “signs of rape” when she was discovered‚ but that reports of her eyes being gouged out were false.
“The community is fabricating all sorts of stories‚ some are even naming suspects that are not known by the family‚” said Bomela.
“The lies that people are saying about this whole thing are making the situation even more unbearable for us as a family.”
According to Nomzamo Ward Councillor‚ Simthembile Mfecane‚ while adult murders in the area had been reported‚ there had never been a case of a child being abducted and then killed.
“Everyone is shocked‚” Mfecane said. “We have never faced this as a community before. It’s new to us. We have never had a case where a child has been killed.”
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said that a 35-year-old suspect from the same area had been arrested on Tuesday‚ and was expected to appear in the Strand Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
“A post mortem was done yesterday and confirmed that the child died due to strangling. It also confirmed that there were no body parts removed from the child’s body.”