JOHANNESBURG – Mpumalanga Premier Refilwe Mtsweni says he is shocked to learn that the alleged mastermind behind the muti murder of six-year-old Bontle Mashiyane is a woman.
On Monday, three suspects – ex-convict Collen Hlongwane, 36, Ntombikayise Ngwenya, 40, and Thapelo Ngomane, 25 –appeared in the KaBokweni Magistrate’s Court in Mpumalanga on charges of rape, murder, kidnapping and dealing in human tissue.
Six-year-old Mashiyane was reported missing on April 3; her body was discovered on May 21, at Mganduzweni near White River.
Mashiyane went missing the same weekend as the late Hillary Gardee, the daughter of former EFF secretary general, Godrich Gardee. Her murder, too, is believed to have been linked to muti killing and the two bodies were recovered in areas not too far from each other.
Mashiyane’s body was found decomposed, with some body parts missing.
One of the suspects, Ngomane, in a video recording, confessed to how they dismembered Mashiyane’s body and removed her womb and her knees.
“For another child a sangoma paid us R45 000 for body parts and for Mashiyane we were given R20 000. I don’t know the buyer but I have met his son, who told us what was needed and we gave him.
“Me and another man have slaughtered three children. I can’t dismember the body, the other guy is the one who can do that. I can kidnap only, but can’t slaughter a human being,” said Ngomane.
He said that there are other children’s bodies that were recovered, and confirmed that they gave the body parts to the sangoma. He said wombs are in demand.
There was a strong police presence at the court. A group of angry community members protested outside the building in support of the Mashiyane family, calling for the court not to grant the suspects bail.
“The child has been murdered by a neighbour and a neighbour and the boyfriend. Both the perpetrators are next door neighbours. Mashiyane used to play with their 10-year-old child. I stand here defeated that the mastermind behind the killing is a woman, a person who is expected to care and nourish the children is the one who orchestrated this... murder against a child,” Mtsweni said.
She further said: “If she can do that, what was she thinking at the time in the 21 days of waking up every morning going to bed, looking at this family just next door to her and pretending as if everything is normal. She did not even have decency to go and confess and tell them the truth so that they too can get closure.”
Mtsweni said the female suspect had been part of a group of people going with the family to search for the child.
“This is not the first murder that they are committing within the street. They confessed to other four children in the same street. Among the four children, this one is the fifth child, two of them are her sisters. Now, you ask yourself: what kind of a woman is this one? Why would she go the extra mile to please izangoma by killing innocent souls within our community?” said Mtsweni.
NPA Mpumalanga Division spokesperson Monica Nyuswa said all suspects are remanded in custody and the matter postponed to June 24, at Masoyi Periodical Court, for further investigations.
“During the trio’s appearance in court today, they applied for legal aid representatives and all abandoned their bail applications,” said Nyuswa.
The Department of Correctional Services said it is saddened by the incident and they are working closely with the SAPS on the matter, as one of the suspects has been identified as a parolee.
“These developments will affect the parole status of the parolee and stipulated processes will be followed in terms of revoking the parole placement. It is undesirable for parolees to re-offend as this does cause harm to the society,'' said DCS spokesperson Singabakho Nxumalo.
He said the public has been calling for a review of their parole system and they have listened to such calls.
“The current parole system, which was introduced in 2004 (based on a model developed already in 1997 and legislated in 1998), may require some restructuring and in need of a review. Such a review is currently under way,” Nxumalo said.
Muti killings appear to be on the rise. In most cases, police find out that the body parts are sold to sangomas.
Sangoma and African spiritual teacher Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi said the media need to stop calling such people izangoma or izinyanga.
“Muti is supposed to make people feel better or restore health and not destroy, kill and distract. The minute it does that it is no longer seen as medicine, but seen as poison and we need to start finding another name for people who do these gruesome and horrible acts.
"I don’t know what the term would be, but criminal acts in the name of izangoma we need to move away from because we are misleading the public,” Ndlanzi said.
She said that as a healer there are sacred laws that one abides by, there are codes of ethics one is given upon their graduation where they are told that their responsibilities and role is healing.
Ndlanzi called for the media to find a way of headlining a story saying there is a need for respect.
She said the role of a healer is to build, restore and strengthen the living with their ancestors. She emphasised that ritual killing does not fall under any form of healing
“It is a criminal act to violate someone else's body like that (done to Mashiyane). It is a criminal and a witchcraft act to temper with a body which is a temple of God and if you temper, you are no longer a healer even though it is done in the name of healing.
"We need to be clear in the case of these killings, some people tend to want to believe that all of us who use muti, we use it for evil purposes, but these people need to be called criminals,” said Ndlanzi..