As the man accused of killing an Inanda woman and her five children made his first court appearance on Monday – a year after the massacre – the patriarch of the family has spoken of his grief.
Tshepang Mokhali, 23, who has been charged with six counts of murder and robbery, appeared briefly in the Ntuzuma Magistrate’s Court, which heard that he did not intend applying for bail.
The matter was adjourned to later this month for possible transfer to the Durban High Court.
Mokhali is alleged to have killed Nobuhle Marcellinah Leneha, and her children, aged between 3 and 14, in their Mzinyathi, Inanda home in December 2012.
Outside court on Monday, the sole surviving child of the massacre, Mpho, 2, waddled around when he was not napping in his father Leonard Bobore’s arms.
A stoic Bobore shook as he spoke of his grief over his family’s slaying.
“I still wake up in the morning and expect to see them,” he said. “I’m losing my mind.”
He said Mpho had to be hospitalised after he was found tied to his mother’s skirt three days after she was killed.
Bobore, who had discovered the bodies, said the child was ill when he was found.
“He would open his mouth to cry and no sound would come out. He had a bad nappy burn and was just drained.”
The accused was his wife’s cousin, he said.
The family had lived in Clare Estate where the children had gone to school, but they also had a house in Mzinyathi.
Bobore said they had paid Mokhali R1 500 to look after the home in their absence and tend to the crops. It was this money that was alleged to have been the root of an altercation prior to the murders.
The mother and children were in Mzinyathi for the holidays while Bobore stayed in Clare Estate to run his tuck shop.
“I phoned her to tell her to come fetch money,” he said, explaining that the money was meant for Mokhali and also to prepare for a traditional ceremony for Mpho as the newest addition to the family.
When his wife did not answer, Bobore said he phoned Mokhali. “He told me she was at the shops with the children then asked for leave to visit his sick child in Matatiele. I agreed with an open heart, not wanting to keep him away from his child over the holidays, especially a sick child,” he said.
A day later, he was still unable to get in touch with his wife so he sent a relative to go and check. “(The relative) told me there was nobody in the house and it seemed like they had been gone for a while.”
Panic set in and Bobore decided to check for himself on the third day. “My brother and I walked the grounds. There was a funny smell but we paid no mind to it. When I reached to put my key in the door, it swung open,” he said.
When he saw his wife’s body on the lounge floor, Bobore said he felt like his heart stopped. “The smell hit me so hard my eyes started to water.”
Although in shock, he said his mind instantly shifted to his children. While he was frantically searching each room, his brother called him into the bathroom, where his five children were stacked on top of each other, each with multiple stab wounds.
When the police arrived, Bobore was taken in for questioning.
He was released two days later, just as his son was discharged from hospital.
Bobore, who is raising Mpho by himself, said he was plagued by regret. “What if I had given her the money earlier, what if I had just gone home, it never stops,” he said.
He said his son was too young to have seen what happened but he often called out for his mother.
“He wakes up in the middle of the night and calls out for her, lifts his head and looks around for her. He reaches out or points to other women and calls out ‘mama’, it is so painful.”
Bobore said he would tell his son what happened to his mother and siblings when he was much older. “I will take him to the gravesite to see where they were buried so he will know about his dear brothers and sisters and his mother.”
Bobore said he was grateful to private investigations company, Magma Security, and the police for finally apprehending the suspect.
His arrest in the Eastern Cape town of Matatiele on Friday came after a member of the family approached Magma, whose chief executive, Shaheen Suleiman, said they raided the house Mokhali was visiting for a function. The suspect was asleep when they pounced.
Suleiman said the case had been devastating and terribly sad. He has since viewed the crime scene photographs and described the scene as the most gruesome he had ever seen.
He was in court on Monday with nine members of his team who had participated in the investigation and arrest.