Durban - The police are on high alert after the pastor accused of murdering four-year-old Lungisani Ntuli was released from police custody.
The army, and the Public Order Policing unit have been sent to the area after threats were issued by members of the community.
Angry Pongola residents threatened to avenge the murder of the boy after the pastor who was arrested in connection with the crime was released from police custody on Friday.
Lungisani went missing on July 2 and parts of his dismembered body were found last Saturday, in a green shopping bag in a rondavel on the property of St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission church. The child’s torso is still missing.
Residents in Ncotshane village, who spent Friday waiting outside Simdlangetshe Magistrate’s Court for the pastor’s appearance, said they would continue burning public and municipal buildings in the area.
In the past week residents destroyed the church where the body parts were found, the pastor’s home and a resident’s home after they accused her of witchcraft. They also set alight part of the magistrate’s court, destroying a building and van. Not even an intervention by politicians earlier in the week could deter them from violence.
Police will continue their investigation into the murder after the National Prosecuting Authority said there was not enough evidence to successfully prosecute the pastor.
They will also continue investigating claims that Lungisani was lured by a man offering him sugarcane and sweets.
Captain Thulani Zwane said the police would be investigating all possible leads.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Nathi Mncube said the decision was taken on Friday.
“By no means have we dropped or withdrawn the charges, they are still in place, but with the evidence we have we can’t successfully prosecute him, which is why he has not appeared in court yet. The police will continue their investigation,” he said.
Speaking to the Sunday Tribune, Ntuli’s grandmother Famasi Ngema recalled the day her grandson went missing. “He got up early, at around 6am, as he always did and by 7am he was outside playing with his two friends. They usually played soccer on the dirt road because that was his favourite game,” she said.
Ngema said he returned home at around 9am to leave his shoes because the sun had come up and he was feeling hot. “That was the last time I saw him. He was so happy, all he wanted to do was go back to his friends and play,” Ngema said.
She said that it was about 1pm when she became concerned about him. “He always comes home around 1pm for lunch, but this time he didn’t, so I sent his siblings to go and find him,” she said.
Ngema said that Lungisani’s friends said that a man offered him sweets and sugarcane, grabbed him by the hand and took him away. “We don’t know who that man was,” she said while wiping her tears away with her scarf.
Bongiwe Ntuli, Lungisani’s mother, said she was shocked by what had happened. She was at work when she received the phone call to say he was missing.
“I rushed home and joined the search for him,” she said.
Ntuli said that when she could not find her son, she went to report his disappearance at the police station, but was told to return the following day because 24 hours had not yet elapsed since Lungisani went missing.
She said he often played Amatyre (a game played by boys who push old car tyres with two sticks).
“He was a regular child, I sometimes wondered where all the energy came from. I am going to miss him so much,” she said.
Ntuli said she was not concerned with the tension and violence in the community.
“Right now I just want to know who killed my son. We are in mourning – people destroying things is the least of my concerns.”
Funeral arrangements are being made for next Sunday.
Zululand district municipality mayor Mpiyakhe Hlatshwayo said he feared there might be a network and not just one person responsible for the murder. “This cannot be the work of just one individual, we feel that there is a network behind this and the sooner they are jailed, the better,” he said.
Mabongi Khuzwayo, a member of St John’s Apostolic Faith Mission church, which was destroyed, defended the pastor, “It can’t be him, I do not believe it at all. Let us just allow the law to sort this out and not destroy things,” she said.