Johannesburg - The father of a missing Soweto teenager last seen in 2011 is pleading with a suspect in the case to return his daughter - dead or alive.
For the first time on Friday, Mbali Nkosi’s father, Edwin Magwai, came face to face with Jabu Linda Khumalo when he appeared in the Protea Magistrate’s Court.
Khumalo has been ducking the police for three years in connection with his daughter’s disappearance,
“It’s simple: all he has to do is to tell us and the police where my daughter is, whether she is alive or not. That’s all that we want from him… I really don’t care about him,” Magwai said at his Dube home on Sunday.
Khumalo was arrested by a police officer near Maponya Shoprite centre in Dube on Wednesday. This was almost the exact spot where Mbali was last seen. She was 15 at the time.
She left home on July 20, 2011 to buy meat at the centre, but failed to return home.
Mbali, who dreamt of becoming a nurse, would have been in Grade 12 this year.
Her mother, Zodwa Nkosi, was the last person to hear her voice, after she had sent a “please call me” message before disappearing later that day. She said “Mama”, then the call was cut off and she has not been heard of or seen since.
In 2012, The Star published a series of articles about the girl’s disappearance and a plea from the police requesting readers to assist them to find the suspect.
Last Wednesday, Khumalo was finally arrested.
According to Magwai, the police officer spotted him walking around Shoprite and called his name. He just looked at the officer.
After calling a senior officer at the Orlando police station to enquire about the wanted man, he was told the man was still on the run.
Khumalo escaped and was rearrested about a kilometre away.
According to Meadowlands police spokesman Constable Sibusiso Chauke, Khumalo has been wanted for questioning in connection with Mbali’s disappearance. He is also facing another charge of kidnapping and rape.
“It is alleged that he kidnapped a teenage girl on January 18, 2011 in White City, Soweto. The victim escaped through an open window at the house,” Chauke said.
Khumalo was arrested and later released on bail, but he absconded and a warrant for his arrest was issued.
There were allegations that Khumalo was hiding in KwaZulu-Natal, but Chauke said they would profile him to see whether he was facing other charges in other places.
Speaking to The Star on Sunday, Mbali’s mother said she was unhappy with the police officer investigating her daughter’s kidnapping.
“We are the ones who call him every now and then requesting an update. At times, he would ask us if we had any leads regarding the case,” she said, referring to the investigating officer, whose name is known to The Star.
Zodwa said she called the officer last Monday, two days before Khumalo was arrested.
“I wanted to know how far he was with the investigations, or if he had any information about my child’s case. A day after the arrest, I called him to confirm the arrest.
“Was it really my job to go after him, despite Mbali being my child? Was he not meant to call and inform us about the arrest?”
Despite her anger, Zodwa said she was grateful to the officer who apprehended Khumalo.
“He later came to our home and asked for our details. It shows that he was really dedicated to the case,” said the mother, who has suffered from depression and was admitted to hospital on several occasions.
Chauke advised her to lay a complaint with the Orlando station commander about their unhappiness with the investigating officer.
The parents hope their daughter is still alive.
“We still have faith that we will see her one day. But it’s been the most toughest years of our lives without her.
“Her youngest sibling constantly asks when will she come home. She misses her too. On Mbali’s birthday she reminds us to buy a cake, but there’s really nothing to celebrate,” Magwai said.
Shortly after Mbali’s disappearance, the family received tip-offs that she had been seen in Bramfischerville, Vosloorus and Dube Hostel. But the girl was never found.