DURBAN - Plessislaer police were appealing to the public who might have information that can assist police in arresting the suspects who gunned downed a Pietermaritzburg family.
Siphokazi, 15, and Siwinile Nzimande, 24, were shot and killed while they were asleep in their bedroom. When their parents, Ntombi, 42, and Bheki Hlela, 53, walked into the passage to check on the children, they were also shot, leaving behind an eight-year-old.
The police were still investigating the killings at the family’s home on February 4 in Imbali, 15km from Pietermaritzburg.
On Thursday relatives, who wished to remain anonymous, recalling the day of the onslaught, said gunmen entered the house after breaking the lounge door.
Bheki Hlela was employed at the uMgungundlovu District Municipality and was also president at Congo Congressional Church of South Africa.
Neighbours had alerted the police when they heard the gunshots.
Spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said the family were asleep when unknown suspects kicked the door open.
“The suspects opened fire and fatally shot four family members aged between 15 and 53. The victims sustained multiple gunshot wounds to the head and body.”
On Saturday, a day after the incident, another family member who was suspected to have been linked to the killings, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself at a nearby home.
A family member who did not want to be named said the family was terrified and still reeling in shock.
“I received a phone call from my other brother in the early hours of Friday morning informing me about the gun shots at our family home. I went to my brother’s house as fast as I could. Just after I got there the eight-year-old knocked on the door and informed us that our father had been shot. We called the police,” he said.
A close relative said it was going to be difficult to make ends meet because they were unemployed.
“We are left stranded as children. We have no idea what to do after the funeral as the only people who provided for the family have been killed in cold blood. We are in shock and confused. We are all unemployed. The head of the family and the sister were the only ones working,” he said.
Ward councillor Mabhungu Mkhize said the community was living in fear as this was not the first such incident.
“We are trying to find out what happened. We hope the community will come forward as we will have a meeting soon. We are hopeful that there will be a change, especially because we have SAPS patrolling day and night. We are going to join forces, working with the police and the community to do right by the community and keep them safe.”
uMgungundlovu District Municipality mayor Mzi Zuma said he was shocked at the rapid spike in killings of families.
He said the Mahlaba and two Mchunu families had each lost more than one family member in shooting incidents similar to Friday’s one, adding that the Khuboni family had lost five of their loved ones.
“We hope the people will work hand-in-hand with the municipality and police to stop these incidents and flush out the criminals. We are aware that catching criminals is police work but they cannot do it without community involvement in making the arrests,” said Zuma.
Three Hlela family members will be laid to rest on Saturday at their home. The other will be buried on Sunday in a different area.
KwaZulu-Natal Social Development MEC Nonhlanhla Khoza was at the family’s home on Thursday where she expressed concern over the continuing multiple-family murders.
“This is the area where families lose a number of their members not by one or pairs, but in groups. This alone proves that urgent intervention is needed. Social workers have visited the family offering counselling. The community safety unit has informed us that there is a community investigation unit they have strengthened to protect the community,” said Khoza.
She stated that they were working on the process and negotiations with the family to arrange to take the eight-year-old to a safer place where the child could be treated and see psychologists.
Anyone who might have information on the killings that can assist the police is encouraged to contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111.