Stock theft led to killings

11 March 2013 - 02:11 By MHLABUNZIMA MEMELA and THANDO MGAGA

Rampant stock theft is suspected to be the reason for the killing of five brothers and a relative in Muden, outside Greytown, in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, at the weekend.

Four other family members escaped, while three people, including children aged three and four, are in hospital after being wounded.

The five Mkhize brothers Sibusiso, 59, Mngeni, 46, Lungisani, 40, Mhlengi, 38, Simphiwe, 18, and their relative Sizwe Zuma, 32, were asleep in separate rondavels early on Saturday when five men masquerading as police officers and armed with AK-47 rifles and handguns opened fire on them.

The children injured during the attack were still in hospital yesterday afternoon.

The surviving family members now live in fear that the gunmen may return to "finish them off".

Community members said the Mkhize brothers were allegedly involved in a ring of live stock rustlers. However, it was not clear yesterday what the brothers' exact involvement was.

One of the survivors of the shooting, Bongumusa Mkhize, 36, said he was aware of the "rumours" that his brothers were involved in stock theft but denied it.

He said his murdered brother, Mhlengi, was recently questioned by police on stock theft.

"We questioned him about it but he said police released him after questioning about the disappearance of [a family's] cattle in the community, which he had nothing to do with," said Mkhize.

KwaZulu-Natal community safety and liaison MEC Willies Mchunu visited the family yesterday, describing the killings as "cruel and unacceptable".

In the afternoon, community members had gathered at the local community hall to voice their concerns to Mchunu about stock theft.

Community leader in Muden, Jeffrey Ngobese, said stock theft was rampant in the area. He said that police even staked out homesteads in an attempt to catch stock thieves in the act and conducted raids in the early hours of the morning at homes of suspected thieves.

The community has held several meetings trying to find solutions to the stock theft and the day before the massacre, one such meeting was held.

Community safety and liaison spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said that, although the department did not have stock theft statistics, the problem was huge.

"Stock theft in the area is of grave concern for the community. It's a big problem in areas like Pomeroy and Muden," he said.

A special police task team was assembled by provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mammunye Ngobeni to hunt down the five suspects.

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