'Trespasser killed by neighbours': An act of mob justice gone wrong?

03 October 2019 - 12:48
By Naledi Shange
Lizwi Mbhabhama, who died after allegedly being beaten by a mob in Reyno Ridge, Witbank.
Image: Facebook / Mbhabhama Lizwi Lizwi Mbhabhama, who died after allegedly being beaten by a mob in Reyno Ridge, Witbank.

The family of a 30-year-old man, allegedly beaten to death by a mob in Reyno Ridge, Witbank, believe he was seeking help at the house where the incident took place. 

He has been identified as Lizwi Mbhabhama, originally from the Eastern Cape. 

His cousin, Buhle Madandana, said on Thursday that hours before Mbhabhama died, he called, saying he was fleeing Phola, near Ogies, as people were after him. He asked the family to send money.

They believe he hitchhiked from Phola to Witbank, and then fled into a suburb near the N12 highway.

Mbhabhama was found on a property by the homeowner, who, with neighbours, allegedly beat him early on Tuesday. He died at the scene.

“He was not a criminal. He must have been trying to find help. He was a good man who worked a good job as a boilermaker at Kusile Power Station. He was married, has a one-year-old child and his wife is pregnant with another child,” Madandana told TimesLIVE.

The family said they did not know who was after Mbhabhama and what kind of trouble he was in.

They were shocked to be called to the Witbank police station, where they were told he had died.

“[The mob who beat him] didn’t want to listen to him. He had nothing on him that suggested that he was intending on committing any crime. He also wasn’t fighting them either,” said Madandana.

In a statement calling for an end to mob justice, police captain Eddie Hall explained how Mbhabhama was caught on the property.

“The man walked towards the back of the yard where the owner’s vehicle was parked. The 49-year-old owner caught the suspect in the yard and started assaulting him severely.

“The owner’s wife phoned nearby neighbours, who also arrived at the house and joined in assaulting the victim.

“The involvement of the suspect’s wife and other neighbours ... is still being investigated and could lead to more arrests,” said Hall.

Maureen Scheepers, operations co-ordinator of the local SA Community Crime Watch group, said they were called just after the assault began.

“When we got there, he was naked. He was still tied up. They had beaten him with a spade, sjambok, sticks and a hose pipe. They kept pouring water on him where his flesh was exposed.”

Recalling his last moments alive, she said: “He looked at me and said, ‘jy is so mooi’. I was still talking to him when his face turned pale. He then had convulsions and his eyes rolled back and that is how he died.”

The homeowner, who was arrested and faces a murder investigation, was scheduled to appear in the Witbank magistrate’s court on Thursday.