Durban - There has been an outpouring of anger and shock following the massacre of eight people in Ematimalo in Greytown outside Pietermaritzburg.
Sisters and grandmothers Nanazi and Sindisiwe Sibiya were killed along with their six grandchildren, Sdudla, Olwethu, Thembeka, Londeka, Ziyanda and Lindo, who were all under the age of 10.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said the attackers carried out almost simultaneous attacks on two different households of the Sibiya family, who lived about 100m apart.
In the first attack, Sindisiwe had been in one room with four of her grandchildren when her home was attacked.
The family were shot at and the home set alight.
In the second incident, Nanazi’s homestead was attacked. She had two of her grandchildren with her.
One of the children suffered third-degree burns and died in hospital, while a 2-year-old survived and is in a critical condition in hospital.
Community members said gunshots were heard around 9pm and the homes were engulfed in flames.
The sisters' half-brother, Fanozi Shaik, said he was shocked by the murders.
“It is clear to us that this was a planned attack. My sisters were the targets. What puzzles us is that we’ve never received any complaints about them. At the moment we are still confused, we don’t know what to do,” said Shaik.
He said he received a call around 11pm notifying him of the incident.
“When I arrived my sisters were burnt, as well as the kids. I have never come across such cruelty. My whole family was murdered, it still feels like I’m dreaming."
Shaik dismissed rumours that his sisters had been suspected of being involved in witchcraft as untrue.
“I have never heard anything negative about my sisters, or any suspicions about them.
"Even if they were suspected of practising witchcraft, it's highly unlikely that both of them would be practising witchcraft.”
Ward councillor for the area, Musa Zondi, also denied there had been allegations of witchcraft in connection with the attacks.
“This is a tragedy, especially since those killed are women. This is the first time that we have seen something like this in the community.”
Zondi said the residents did not feel safe and feared they could be next.
“This is a sign that people have lost their conscience. A human being with a conscience would never kill and set alight a 2-year-old child.
"Even if there had been a difference of opinions between the adults, a child has nothing to do with those issues."
Acting provincial police commissioner Major-General Bheki Langa said such horrendous acts showed that there are people who do not value other people’s lives.
“Police will thoroughly investigate the case and ensure that the culprits face the full might of the law,” he said.
Community Safety MEC Mxolisi Kaunda, who visited the area yesterday, said the police would not rest until the suspects were found.
He urged the community to let the police do their job.