Cape Town - “He was my only child! He was my only child!”
A mother’s cries of grief echoed through a small shack in Khayelitsha on Wednesday morning, as Nosipho Mkwambi woke to the reality that her toddler had been murdered.
Little Iminathi, known as “Khwezi”, was just 2 years old. His lifeless body was dug out of a shallow grave on Tuesday afternoon. The toddler had been buried in an upright position.
To add to the family’s pain, his head was found around 50m away – he had been decapitated.
On Wednesday morning, his mother was too traumatised to speak at their home, near the intersection between Baden Powell Drive and Mew Way in eastern Khayelitsha.
But the child’s grandmother, Nopasika Mkwambi, and other close family members did, fighting back their tears.
Khwezi had been in his grandmother’s care – her daughter is a single working mother, employed at Truworths as a security guard at the Gardens Centre in the CBD.
Shortly after noon, a 21-year-old relative had asked Mkwambi if he could take Khwezi to buy chips at a nearby spaza shop.
She had let the child go but, within an hour, became concerned and began to search for them.
Family friend Alfred Ntlonze took up the story.
“She, the child’s grandmother, asked me if I had seen them and I told her I had seen them next to the shop,” he told the Cape Argus.
Ntlonze joined the search and it was not long before the relative who had taken Khwezi to the shop ran up to him.
“He told me four men had kidnapped the child. That they were in a blue car,” he said.
Ntlonze flagged down a vehicle and got a lift to where the relative said he had seen the blue car.
But, as he had tried to get more information from the relative, community members noticed blood on the relative’s trousers and he ran away.
Ntlonze stopped a passing police vehicle and explained the story. The officers joined the search for the relative.
They eventually found him a few kilometres away, in the Khayelitsha suburb of Harare.
Before long, he had led them to a sand dune behind the suburb where the family lives – and the gruesome discovery was made.
Police spokesman FC van Wyk said: “The 21-year-old suspect then took (police) to the bushes, where he showed them a shallow grave with the headless body of the child.
“The head was found approximately 50m from the grave in the bush.”
Ntlonze’s face screwed up with pain as he recalled seeing the child’s body: “I was choking… in my heart. I could not look. But I saw that the child had been buried standing upright – and I saw his neck where his head had been cut off.”
The family had tried to reach the child’s mother at her place of work but she was only able to return home later on Tuesday evening, to greet her traumatised family, and receive the devastating news.
The Cape Argus cannot name the relative, as he had not appeared in court by publication time on Wednesday.
Family and friends described him as “a nice guy” and as “a clever guy”, who had dropped out of school a few years ago, as he was preparing to write matric.
He had since struggled with addiction, a family member said.
Ntlonze said the family, with the help of his former teachers, had tried in vain to persuade the relative to return to school.
Van Wyk said the man would appear in court soon.
The community in the Mkwambi family’s neighbourhood rallied around them on Wednesday.
No one canvassed by the Cape Argus could offer an explanation as to why the child’s head had been severed from his body.