Neighbours of a Mariannhill family attacked comfort one another as four bodies are removed from two houses in the homestead. The dead included a six-month-old baby. Photo:Mthobisi Mbanjwa

The murder of four people in Mariannhill, Durban, early on Thursday has brought to 12 the number of people killed in KwaZulu-Natal in the past three days, and prompted national police commissioner Bheki Cele to visit the province.

He assured Mariannhill residents that the killers would be caught shortly.

The attack claimed the lives of Nolusindiso Skhotha, 30, her six-month-old baby, Sesethu, her partner Bongani Mngomezulu and his brother, Vasco Msane. They were gunned down in their home on Thursday.

This follows the murder of six people in Shongweni, about 10km from Mariannhill, on Tuesday morning.

Ngenzeni Hlongwane, 40, her children Nokuthula, 22, Thabani, 18, and Mthobisi Zulu, 8, and grandchild, Thalente Zulu, 2, were killed at their homestead, while S’thembiso Nxusa, 29, was killed at another homestead 500m away.

Nxusa’s pregnant girlfriend was wounded and her sister was raped by the attackers.

In Mariannhill yesterday, residents watched in shock as the four bodies were removed from houses in the family compound. Many wept when a small body bag containing baby Sesethu’s remains was carried out.

Police Colonel Jay Naicker said although there were similarities between the Shongweni and Mariannhill attacks, it was too early to say if the same gang was responsible for both attacks.

He said neighbours had heard what seemed to be an argument between the couple at about 1.30am and later heard gunshots.

“The mother was found lying at a neighbour’s doorstep, holding her baby. It looked as if she was trying to protect her baby.

“The men were found at different houses in the same compound.”

Both houses were ransacked with blood splattered everywhere.

Skhota’s brother Fezile was shaken by the incident. “What is wrong with people in this area? Why are they killing innocent people?” He said it would be difficult to break the news to their mother, who lives in the Eastern Cape.

Skhota’s close friend, who refused to be named because she fears for her life, said Skhotha and Mngomezulu had tried for a baby for two years. “They were happy when their girl was born, and now their dream has been wiped away.”

Cele said about 100 officers had been deployed in the Upper Highway area. “We have set up roadblocks and have patrols in the area.”

He said the police had a strong lead on people who might be linked to the crimes.

At Hlabisa, in northern KZN, a 52-year-old woman and her granddaughter were killed on Tuesday night. A long running dispute over suspected witchcraft is thought to be the motive.

A source said two men knocked on the door, asking to buy beer, cigarettes and matches, before the attack.

They slit Thoko Sibiya’s throat and shot young Simphiwe Buthelezi.

“I was shocked to hear of the killing because I had spoken to my sister-in-law a few minutes earlier that evening,” Nhlanhla Buthelezi, father of the Grade 4 pupil, said yesterday.

Suspicion that Sibiya practised witchcraft was quelled by a traditional leader about two weeks ago.

Captain Thulani Zwane pleaded with people who had information on the matter to contact Ezibayeni police station commissioner Captain Musawenkosi Dindi at 082 417 8200 or 035 562 1072. - The Mercury