01 June 2008, A copy photo of Ernisto Nhamuave. Picture: Shayne Robinson XSR005

Johannesburg - The Flaming Man – as Mozambican migrant Ernesto Nhamuave would become known around the world – was cornered by a mob, doused with fuel and set alight in Ramaphosa informal settlement at the height of South Africa’s xenophobic violence in May, 2008.

Now the story of his death, captured in graphic detail by press photographers, is being told again in a 48-minute documentary that tells of how his death affected his family in Vuca village north of Maputo, Mozambique.

Charles Khoza, the 48-year-old film-maker who spent seven months travelling between Joburg and Mozambique to document Nhamuave’s story, said the dead man’s family was waiting for justice.

“His family is unforgiving. They are still deeply hurt. His brother-in-law who survived the xenophobia when he (Nhamuave) was killed in Ramaphosa is bitter and you get a sense that he wants revenge,” Khoza said.


Khoza’s short film, Blood and Fire, explores Nhamuave’s family loss, and traces those who witnessed his attack, the survivors and a police captain who helped remove a burning mattress that covered his body when he was set alight.

In the film, a Vuca village chief spoke of how Nhamuave, like many other economic migrants, had left his country to go to Joburg to try to fulfil his dream of educating his children.

“When he left his home he had told his family that he would return to build them a proper house,” said Khoza.

“I thought it would be better to share this story with the rest of the world so a lot more people can learn something from it.

“Such an event (xenophobia) can happen again if people are not educated about it.”

In the documentary, Nhamuave’s wife Hortencia spoke of how the family had waited years for the South African government to apologise to their three children for what had happened to their father.

She said they struggled to find closure and move on because there had been no word from the authorities about what had happened to Nhamuave.

Nobody has been arrested for his death. “I feel so sad. I don’t know, I was thinking – if I was there to help him. The children just can’t stop crying and I don’t know what to say to them,” she said. “I am looking for help for their education, I don’t know where that help will come from.”

One of the film’s producers, Lwamba Serge, said they hoped to raise funds for Nhamuave’s children’s education and also to raise awareness and educate people about what happened in May, 2008.

“We would like to see the documentary shown at film festivals such as the upcoming Durban International Film Festival, and we want to take it to universities and community centres for showing,” he said.

“Ideally, we hope we will be able raise sponsorship money through the film for the family in Mozambique to help them with educating the children.”

Khoza said he also hoped that the documentary would spur the authorities into action, because May is the fifth anniversary of the worst xenophobic violence the country has seen.

“This should be our ‘never-forget moment’, much like what happened in Marikana,” said Khoza.

Saturday Star