A heartbreaking tale of friendship that led to murder

06 September 2017 - 14:17 By Jeff Wicks And Nathi Olifant
Paramedics carry the badly injured man to an ambulance at the Pinetown Taxi Rank.
Paramedics carry the badly injured man to an ambulance at the Pinetown Taxi Rank.
Image: Jackie Clausen

Mlungisi Nxumalo’s only crime was looking after his best friend’s 11-year-old son - an act of friendship he paid for with his life.

Nxumalo was beaten to death by a mob at the Pinetown taxi rank on Tuesday evening. He was falsely accused of trying to kidnap the mentally ill 11-year-old boy. It was the eve of his 44th birthday.

Bukisa Cele had left his son in Nxumalo's care for mere moments as he went to buy food from a stall in the rank. It was then that the boy descended into a screaming fit‚ drawing the attention of bystanders and a crowd amassed.

As Nxumalo who was trying to restrain the child‚ they set upon him.

Nxumalo took his final breaths in a gutter‚ surrounded by police and paramedics.

Another man‚ who had tried to stand between the crowd and Nxumalo‚ was also beaten to death.

Speaking to TimesLIVE‚ Nxumalo’s sister‚ Mbali‚ said that the boy was known to slip into a mental state and would do “crazy and funny things”.

“Yesterday was no different. It just happened at a wrong place and people interpreted wrong‚” she said. “Mlu was Bab’u Cele’s best friend. They traveled together every morning and every afternoon and it was not the first time they had had to pick the child at a taxi rank."

“Today [Wednesday] is his birthday and he was looking forward to this day all this year and he never got to see it. We are shattered‚” she said.

Cele’s wife‚ Jabulisile‚ said her husband had watched helplessly as his friend was kicked to death and was shaken to his core.

“He’s too traumatised. When I arrived yesterday at the scene he was paralysed with shock‚ his mouth was dry and his blood pressure had shot up‚” she said.

She said her son escaped the chaos but Nxumalo was surrounded.

“I just don’t know what to explain to Mlu’s family. We were all like family‚ because as much as he was my husband’s friend he was much younger and we regarded him as our son. He called me ‘mama’ and called my husband ‘baba’‚” she said.

Police are investigating two cases of murder.