However, the 9-year-old would be found dead the following day.
The Grade 2 pupil from Sikhulisile Primary School in Ekangala was found dead in the bushes two weeks ago.
His death sent shock waves across the country, social media platforms and the community, located outside Bronkhorstspruit.
The boy was found face down. He could not be identified immediately due to the extensive injuries to his face.
Community members said it appeared he had been beaten in the face with a blunt object.
Police opened a case of murder and were looking for the child’s step-grandfather for questioning.
His family said they were told the suspect, who has lived with them since 2014, had on the morning of the tragedy left a note threatening that he would murder the boy, who was buried last Thursday.
In the note, which has since been taken by police, it was stated: “Nhlanhla and I are dead and I have enough pills to kill the both of us.”
Police spokesperson Constable Connie Moganedi said a case of murder was being investigated.
Sibanyoni said she had had a misunderstanding with the suspect the previous night over cellphone airtime.
“I can’t believe I lost my only child over R13 airtime. We had an argument about the airtime which he stole from me. We trusted him since he was never a violent person. I’m really hurt,” she said.
Recalling the day the police called an urgent meeting at the school her son attended, the mother said she knew immediately that it was her son as he did not come home that day.
“Nhlanhla was the kind of kid who would come back from school, watch cartoons and hardly played with other kids. But that day he wasn’t around when I came home from work. His phone was also left behind; something I found strange because he always had it with him.
“I came back from work but he wasn’t home. Hours passed until police went around the community at around 5 pm alerting us of an urgent meeting at Nhlanhla’s school. When the principal announced that there was a body of a pupil discovered in the bushes, I knew right away that it was my son.
“He was found wearing an oversize T-shirt which I didn’t recognise. He was also wearing his grey school pants and socks.”
The mother said Nhlanhla’s school bag and shirt were later brought home by the suspect’s sister on the day he was discovered.
Meanwhile, parents whose children attend the same school said they were living in fear. Parents who spoke to the Pretoria News anonymously said the tragedy had left them shaken.
“What happened has shocked us as parents. I have three kids who attend the same school. Since the tragedy I no longer allow my kids to even play outside without supervision,” a mother said.
“What I heard is that the child died due to a misunderstanding with the step-granddad. He is still on the run. We fear he might come back to get our kids,” another resident said.
The Gauteng Department of Education dispatched its Psycho-Social Unit to counsel the school community.