Durban - A KwaMashu mother who had applied for a protection order against a man who had allegedly beaten her has been found partially beheaded.
The body of Nontobeko Mhlongo, 20, was discovered shortly after her assailant, believed to be known to her, fled after he was disturbed while attempting to cut off her head.
Mhlongo’s one-year-old daughter was found between her legs, crying, on a soccer field in the township’s G-Section. The child witnessed her mother’s murder.
The woman, who worked as a hairdresser, had left her home at about 8pm on Tuesday to fetch her baby from a crèche at a nearby house, her aunt, Dudu Nzuza, said.
She said Mhlongo had asked her younger sister to accompany her as she was afraid she might bump into the man who had allegedly threatened to kill her.
“He was out on bail after being arrested for beating her up and because of that she had also applied for a protection order against him, just to be safe,” she said.
Nzuza said on their way back from fetching the baby, Mhlongo was approached by a man, who blocked her path.
“According to her sister, (Mhlongo) had asked him to let her go because the baby was cold. He had apparently told her sister to go and fetch a blanket for the baby.”
Knowing the history between Mhlongo and the man, Nzuza said she was worried when her sister came back alone.
“She took the blanket and went out but she had returned very quickly and told me they were no longer where she had left them.
“I tried to call her but she did not answer (her cellphone) and that’s when I knew that she was in trouble,” Nzuza said.
She said she had asked relatives to help search in the area. After a short while, the search ended when a neighbour told them he had heard a woman and a baby crying at the soccer field.
“He said when he searched where the cries were coming from, he saw a woman lying on the field and a baby crying.
“He also said he saw a man running away and became suspicious and had phoned the police. I just knew it was her,” Nzuza said.
When she plucked up the courage to go to see Mhlongo’s body, Nzuza said she was horrified at the sight, as only the skin at the back of her niece’s neck was connecting her head to her body.
“He had basically cut her head off and if he had not been disturbed by the man, he would have killed the baby too,” she said.
Nzuza said she felt bad that she was not able to prevent the killing.
“She was killed in less than an hour right under my nose and I could not protect her. We are traumatised,” she said. “The worst part is that he has not been found. A wonderful child has been taken away from us in such a brutal way.”
Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that a case of murder was being investigated.
Zwane confirmed the man had been on bail after being arrested for assaulting Mhlongo.
KZN violence monitor Mary de Haas said more needed to be done to protect women in similar situations: “Death threats cannot be taken lightly and this is one very sad example,” she said.
“In my view, this young woman has been failed by the justice system. People charged with assault get bail all the time and it is extremely dangerous.”
De Haas said no woman should have to live in fear.