Three KwaMashu friends have died after being doused with petrol and set alight by robbers, who were apparently annoyed that the victims did not have any money.
The friends died an agonising death at the weekend, but not before they told their shocked families about their ordeal.
Anele Kubheka and Vusi Biyela, both 18, and Sthembiso Makhathini, 23, had just bought petrol from a local garage for a neighbour on Friday night when five gunmen pounced on them.
They took Makhathini’s BlackBerry phone but when they realised the trio had no cash on them, they poured the petrol over them and ignited it.
“They said to Anele that they knew there was a spaza shop at his home and he should have money; they demanded money that the boys didn’t have,” said Anele’s devastated mother, Jabu Kubheka.
She said that Kubheka had left home at around 9pm on Friday for Makhathini’s house in KwaMashu’s C Section.
About an hour later, neighbours who had heard of the gruesome incident alerted the family.
“Anele had rolled off the road and into a nearby ditch that has a stream running through it. I guess he was trying to put the fire out,” Jabu said. “By the time the boys got to RK Khan Hospital (in Chatsworth) they could no longer speak because of the pain.”
Makhathini’s aunt, Zanele Xulu, who went to visit them at the KwaMashu Poly Clinic, said a nurse had told her that her nephew had suffered 95 percent burns on his body and Anele 85 percent.
She said neighbours who heard screaming and saw the flames came to the friends’ aid.
“Vusi’s burns were more severe than the others. His knees were charcoal black,” said Xulu. “These people were real killers, they are heartless because only a heartless person can kill helpless children in a such a gruesome manner.”
Xulu said the friends had told her that they did not recognise their attackers.
“I found it strange that the men didn’t take the boys’ shoes because they were all wearing branded shoes. If their intentions were to rob them then they would have taken their shoes as well,” she said.
“Those people were just cold-hearted animals.”
Biyela died on Saturday morning, Kubheka on Sunday morning and Makhathini on Sunday evening, Xulu said.
However, police spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said they were only aware of two deaths and were therefore investigating two counts of murder and one of attempted murder.
Zwane said no arrests had been made yet.
Social Development MEC Weziwe Thusi, who visited the victims’ families on Monday, said their pain could never be comprehended.
“The families are not the only people who have suffered from their loss but the community has also suffered because these children are the future of this country,” she said.
In a statement on Monday, KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu described the attack as ruthless.
“It indicates the lowest decline of morals and humanity. How can normal people be as violent and brutal as to set other people on fire?”
He urged members of the community who might have information on those responsible for the attack to contact police.