Durban - He was a sweet boy who idolised her and trailed after her, wanting to do everything she did.
As he grew older, he became “sports mad”, preferring to play rugby and listen to music, rather than hang around with friends.
“We were very close,” said Luleka Ntshongwana, 40, testifying yesterday at the trial of her brother, the alleged axeman Joseph Ntshongwana, 37, who is charged in the Durban High Court with murdering four people and attempting to murder another two during March 2011, as well as the kidnapping and rape of a young woman in 2009.
Well-educated high-flyers was the impression Luleka gave of her family, saying her father was a diplomat-turned-businessman and her mother a teacher-turned-lawyer who, until last year, was a lecturer of law at the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
Luleka said she was a civil engineering technician and designer.
Joseph studied sports administration and marketing in Pretoria while he played rugby for the Blue Bulls.
She said she first noticed “something strange” with him while she was living at home in Yellowwood Park during 2010.
“He started accusing me of poisoning his food. He would not come out of his room to eat, and he was someone who liked to eat meals and snack on sweet things in-between.
“He also accused me of stealing his clothes and other possessions.
“I would confront him about it, but he would say he knew I had stolen them.
“He also said there were strange smells in his bedroom and refused to sleep there.
“I investigated, but his room smelt just like mine. His accusations were mainly against me, not against any other member of the family. If we differed on minor issues, he would get angry, which was odd, because he was usually a calm person.”
Referring to an incident when her brother drove to Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital in a “hysterical state”, she said she had gone there to see him, “but I could not talk to him”, because of the state he was in.
The next day he was transferred to RK Khan Hospital, where he spent six weeks.
He was deemed to be a “mental patient”, and it was to be the first of several stays in hospitals and institutions when he would “regress”.
She said sometimes the family had to call the police to take him to hospital because he refused to go, saying there was nothing wrong with him.
Asked about how his arrest and the trial had affected her family, Luleka said: “It is painful. And nobody really understands.”
She said in April 2011, just after her brother’s arrest, she had tried to reach out to some of the victims in court.
“My brother was crying loudly in the dock, and he could not be contained… As if that was not the worst, when we went outside, families of the deceased were also crying.
“I realised we had something in common… I thought they would see that we were all in pain. It was important that, out of this bizarreness, we could proceed in unity, although we appeared to be on different sides.”
She said that, since her brother’s incarceration, he had always been held at the hospital in Westville Prison. Just recently, his medication had been changed, and she had noticed a major improvement in him. He had become responsive and communicative.
Under cross-examination by State prosecutor Rea Mina, Luleka said that, when the police had been called to help the family take him to hospital, her brother had not been violent or aggressive, but had gone with them willingly.
She said she had not been living at home during February and March 2011 – when most of the alleged crimes took place – but she had detected that things were not always right when she had phoned him.
“A first sign would be the loud silence… there was an uneasiness.
“I would call my mom and say, ‘Just check on him’.”
The trial continues today with further cross-examination of defence psychiatrist Professor Abubaker Gangat, who says that Ntshongwana should not be held responsible for the crimes, because he is mentally ill.
The State will still call its own psychologists and psychiatrists to challenge this.