Phongolo, KwaZulu-Natal -
An angry mob tried to burn down a church on Monday after the dismembered body parts of 4-year-old Lungisani Ntuli were found in a room on the property.
The volatile community of Ncotshane village in Phongolo, northern KwaZulu-Natal, set fire to a rondavel at St John’s Church.
Police stopped them setting fire to the church, and were stoned by the mob.
Lungisani went missing at midday last week Wednesday, and his body parts, the torso and an arm missing, were found on Saturday in the rondavel.
Local ward councillor Jackson Mkhwanazi told the Daily News he had been informed by residents of the area that police, deployed to the area to monitor the situation, had clashed with the community before the church was burned.
“People just went on the rampage, throwing stones at the police, who had been preventing them from burning the church,” said Mkhwanazi.
The community apparently suspected the church priest had murdered the boy.
Lungisani’s uncle, Sakhile Ngubane, on Monday said the boy had been looked after by his grandmother while they were at work.
He said Lungisani had been playing with his friends outside, and had gone home to take off his shoes and went back again to play.
When it was time to eat, Lungisani could not be found.
He said the older children looked for the boy and said they were told he had been taken by a man selling sugarcane in the area, whom they identified as being short with dreadlocks.
“Other kids said the man called the boy and promised to buy him sweets. Two other kids who were playing (at) a sport ground said they saw the child walking with the sugarcane man. They called the boy over, but the man instructed the boy to stay with him,” he said.
He said they realised that the boy had gone missing after looking everywhere he usually went to play and at the homes of his relatives.
He said they reported the child missing with the police and the local ward councillor the same day.
Pictures of the child were posted around the community and Mkhwanazi used a loudhailer to tell the community that he was missing.
Mkhwanazi said the boy’s dismembered body was found by children in a rondavel at the church.
He said Lungisani’s head, one arm and legs, which had been cut into four pieces at the joints, were found in a grocery shopping bag on the floor. The child’s torso and other arm have not been found.
“The room was found clean and there was no blood anywhere. He took his time and cut him neatly,” said Mkhwanazi, who said he saw the body parts.
Mkhwanazi said the church was not properly fenced and people walked in and out at all times of the day. The room was always open.
“The situation is tense. The community is very angry, but we have tried to let the police do its investigation,” said Mkhwanazi.
Mkhwanazi said the priest was not at the church when the body was found.
When the priest was contacted by the Daily News, he was furious at the accusations by the community that he had been involved in the killing.
He said he had been warned by church members that the church would be burnt down.
“I have told them to go ahead and burn it down. They want to burn it, they should, if that will satisfy them. How am I supposed to know who left the body there?
“How was I going to stop him because I was not there? I never saw any child’s body parts or a head,” he said.
He said he was in Durban for a church service when the body was found. “The church members were stopped from going to church on Sunday by the community. We are nothing to this community because we are believers. God will take His decision and even now I don’t know where to go to,” he said.
KZN police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed that Phongola police were investigating a case of murder.
“The motive of the killing is unknown and no arrest has been made at this stage… Investigations are continuing,” said Zwane.