Cape Town - When an angry group of youths in Khayelitsha threatened to kill Mayedwa Simelela in his own car if he did not hand over two young men accused of theft, Simelela complied, fearing for his life.
This was his testimony before the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry at which Simelela and his niece Nomamerika Simelela spoke of their links to a vigilante attack on two young alleged robbers last year.
Uncle and niece were arrested last year on charges of kidnapping and murdering two teenagers who had allegedly robbed Nomamerika and her boyfriend.
They did not contact the police when the teenagers were assaulted and beaten to death that night, saying the police would not have responded soon enough in the “location”.
The case against the Simelelas was later withdrawn.
Commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli have been heading the inquiry which seeks to probe allegations of police inefficiency and the breakdown in communications between the police and the community in Khayelitsha.
The commission was set up by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille after complaints by various NGOs.
On Monday, Nomamerika Simelela became tearful as she told of her encounter with a group of robbers at the Khayelitsha Mall on June 13 last year. Simelela said she and her boyfriend had been robbed of a cellphone, jacket and about R2 500. The couple had been planning to go to the Eastern Cape to attend a funeral. After the robbery she immediately contacted her uncle, Mayedwa.
News of the robbery spread and community members became involved. By the time her uncle arrived, Nomakerika, her boyfriend and other residents had traced the robbers.
One was found wearing the stolen jacket, but the money and cellphone were missing.
Following an interrogation, the youths admitted to robbing the couple, promising to return the money.
At that point a group who had identified the teenagers from an earlier confrontation closed in around their car. They told the Simelelas that if the suspects were not handed over, they would set his car alight with the boys inside.
The Simelelas fled and did not see the crowd assault the boys, who were beaten to death that night.
When lawyers representing police at the commission asked why the Simelelas had not gone to the police, they said they did not think the police would have assisted them.
A third witness, Zolani Magadla, broke down before he was set to testify. He told the commission how his illegal shebeen had been robbed on New Year’s Eve, and how he and four others had been arrested for the murder of the robbers following a mob justice attack.
Charges against him were also withdrawn months later.