Zivai Kapembi tells of his last conversation with his 16-year-old brother-in-law, Muhle Mbakaza, who had lived with him since 2009. Residents beat Mbakaza to death on Sunday after he and an accomplice allegedly broke into a house and stole items while the owners were asleep. Photo: Neil Baynes

The family of a Philippi teenager beaten to death by a crowd after allegedly breaking into a home say the killers were “heartless”.

But residents say they have been victims of an upsurge in crime and have had enough.

Enraged residents of Marcus Garvey in Philippi East savagely beat Muhle Mbakaza, 16, to death on Sunday after he and an accomplice allegedly forced their way into a house and stole clothing and household appliances while the owners were asleep.

The accomplice got away before the 16-year-old was attacked by people armed with sticks and sjamboks. A cellphone stolen in the break-in was recovered.

Mbakaza died while his sister and cousin were cleaning him up with the intention of taking him to hospital.

They had intervened and taken him from the furious group.

Three men, aged 21, 26 and 46, were arrested in connection with the attack. They are to appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Tusday.

Mbakaza’s cousin, Zola Mbakaza, said: “When we (reached him) he was lying on the ground with his hands and legs tied with rope, his clothes were bloody and he was breathing heavily. He could hardly talk, but I think he recognised us.”

She said her family, who lived in Khayelitsha, were horrified at the way in which the group had handled matters.

“Those people are heartless, how can you beat a 16-year-old to death?” she said.

“They could at least have thought of another punishment, maybe given him a hiding or a lighter beating.

“Muhle was a naughty child, but he didn’t deserve this. Clearly it was their intention to kill him because one of the people there said they would set him alight if he did not tell them where the stolen items were.”

Muhle Mbakaza’s guardian, Zivai Kapembi, said the last conversation he had with the teenager was when he wished him a happy new year on Saturday morning.

“I couldn’t believed it when a friend called to tell me Muhle had passed away,” Kapembi said. “He was a good boy, he just mixed with the wrong crowd. I used to chase all his friends away whenever they came to the house because they were not good friends.” .

The teenager had been staying with Kapembi since being expelled from school in Khayelitsha in 2009.

Marcus Garvey residents acknowledged that mob justice was not a solution, but said they were desperate to get rid of criminals.

Resident Lungisa Sogiyana said: “It’s not right to take the law into your own hands, nor is taking someone’s life.

“The community becomes desperate because when the law is weak, these criminals get arrested today (but) next thing you bump into them.”

Boniswa Njova, a member of a community committee, said there was a huge problem with crime in the Philippi community.

“People are terrified for their lives,” Njova said.

“I don’t really blame the community. They have had enough of these criminals because their homes get invaded by them.

“They get killed in their homes for their belongings. It’s time that people knew what life was like here because of crime.”

Residents said that there had been a huge increase in the incidence of crime in the area, with a spate of house robberies and muggings since September. - Cape Times