Durban’s house of horror

By Nathi Olifant And S'Nethemba Gumede Time of article published Feb 6, 2011

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Smashed shop windows, burnt houses and smouldering thatch were testimony to the devastation left by a rampaging mob that took issue with a local inyanga’s alleged involvement in a muti killing.

This trashed site used to be the sprawling home of Mduduzi Manqele, 49, a respected local traditional healer and successful businessman in the Mafakatini area of Vulindlela, between Pietermaritzburg and Howick.

His empire came crashing down last Saturday when a mob descended on his home, before looting it and setting it alight.

Manqele and Roger Thusi were arrested last Friday in connection with the murder of Inanda teenager Loyiso Jokweni, 18, whose head was found in a freezer in Thusi’s girlfriend’s home in the France township, west of Pietermaritzburg.

The Pietermaritzburg regional court heard on Monday how Thusi implicated Manqele, telling police he had killed the teenager on Manqele’s orders. Thusi, a street vendor, was looking for a way to get rich quick. He approached Manqele, who allegedly instructed him to get hold of male body parts. The court heard how Thusi later led police to Manqele’s home in Mafakatini, prompting the local residents to take the law into their own hands.

On Thursday, police forensic investigators cordoned off the expansive homestead, while looking for clues and the remains of further human body parts. Several sections of the home were dug up and police sniffer dogs – often distracted by the rabbits kept to feed the inyanga’s pythons - were used.

A group of reporters entered a room behind Manqele’s mansion-like house. It could have come straight out of a horror movie. In it was a cage containing a branch. Curled around it was a snake skeleton.

A ladder in a hole in the floor led into a tunnel which, in turn led to an underground chamber. The hole was so narrow that only someone small could enter.

Sunday Tribune reporter S’nethemba Gumede followed police down the ladder into the pitch-black chamber - where the smell of death and chemicals hung heavily in the air.

The room had a cement floor - the walls a mix of mud and brick. Pictures of tokoloshes and voodoo dolls lay scattered around.

On the ceiling hung a crocodile skull, a skeleton of a snake, which forensics said was that of a small python, the tail of an animal, carcasses of iguanas and the skins of more snakes. There was also a car tyre, sacks and buckets with contents that were impossible to identify.

On the walls, shelves were lined with bottles of substances. A hole on the other side of the wall contained mud, animal remains, eggs and calabashes. The contents indicated it was used to mix various concoctions.

Even more spine-chilling was a tiny grave with a concrete cross in the centre of the room. No one knew who or what lay in it.

Police forensic investigators took samples of the items in the jars.

Live animals found on the property earlier in the week included an African Rock Python - put down because of injuries sustained during captivity - and the rabbits.

Outside, crowds of local residents stood watching in awe, as police searched the property. Apart from several stores, a supermarket and a butchery, the complex also served as traditional healers’ consultation rooms.

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune outside the complex, residents said they had never consulted Manqele on anything.

“Only people from outside came here. We knew the complex only as trading and business premises - but clearly more was happening inside,” said one resident.

Speaking outside Manqele’s home this week, provincial police spokesman Lt Col Vincent Mdunge said a team of forensic experts from KwaZulu-Natal and Pretoria were examining the contents of large jars, filled with what they believed were intestines and other organs, to determine whether they were human or animal.

Nine experts from the forensic science laboratory joined members of the KZN detective units, search and rescue units, dog units and other branches of the SAPS yesterday to collate evidence for further analysis.

Mdunge said Major-General Mjabuliswa Ngcobo and his team would lead the investigation into Jokweni’s death, and the link between the decapitated teenager and Manqele. DNA testing will also be done.

“People are upset and due to the volatile nature of the case, police will not disclose what is found on the premises until the evidence is before the court,” Mdunge said.

Jokweni’s body was found on January 17. He had been visiting his sister in France township when he disappeared. He was reported missing by his family on December 28. The teen’s head was allegedly found in a plastic dish, along with a frozen snake.

Thusi was expected to plead guilty, but changed his mind. Sources close to the investigation allege Thusi was promised R10-million to keep his mouth shut.

Manqele and Thusi will appear again in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow. - Sunday Tribune

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