It was an emotional day for the family of Lukhololwam Mkhontwana as they saw for the first time their neighbour who is accused of being involved in the kidnapping of the murdered boy.
Aphiwe Vakele, 31, made a brief appearance at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday wearing a municipal navy fleece pullover and jeans.
While the matter was postponed to Friday, Nyanga community members came to court in their numbers to submit a petition calling for bail to be denied and in support of the family.
The eight-year-old’s body was found in September 2022 dumped near Botha Farm in Philippi.
This was about three days after he was lured by men into a car while playing with his friends a few metres from his home.
The suspects demanded a ransom of R100 000 for his safe return but the family could only afford to send R1 000, and that was the last they heard from the kidnappers.
Police spokesperson FC Van Wyk confirmed a breakthrough in the case was made on January 4 when Vakele was arrested.
“The suspect has been charged with kidnapping at this stage and not the murder case as there are still other suspects outstanding,” he said.
Lukhololwam’s grandmother, Weziwe Khitha, said they were shocked that the accused was their neighbour and were hoping more arrests would be made soon.
“It is shocking to think how we have been going up and down searching for the child in hopes of finding him soon, all along the person knew his whereabouts was with us. He watched as the family was frustrated to the point of finally receiving the devastating news of finding him dead. We received phone call threats from these kidnappers to a point that the family didn’t trust each other. When we went to the police station or searched somewhere they would call and tell us all about the movements we made that day. While grieving someone called the mother saying she deserved that and they hoped a lesson was learned by other parents,” said Khitha.
She said her grandson was taught to never talk to strangers or enter their car and they were surprised how unknown people could have lured him.
“Now we understand why he entered the car that fateful day, there was someone he was familiar with. Someone who was supposed to protect him.” said Khitha.