NEWS | EAST LONDON 

“All I want to know is who killed my son”

Father of young man murdered by vigilantes says police have done nothing

Photo of two people
Father Thembinkosi Mbuyazwe and stepmother Joyce Gcobo want to know who killed their son. Photo: Yamkela Ntshongwana
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The father of a young man killed by vigilantes in early August in Scenery Park, East London, says the local police have done nothing about his murder.

Sisonke Mbuyazwe from Zibonele informal settlement was killed on 2 August by a group of people from the community. He was in his mid-20s. He had been accused of housebreaking.

Sisonke’s father, 66-year-old Thembinkosi Mbuyazwe, says police have not given him a case number nor taken a statement. He was visited once by an Officer Gwavu soon after the incident, but has never heard from him again. He accuses the police of “playing hide and seek” with him.

“All I want to know is who killed my son and what are the police doing,” he said.

Sisonke was unemployed. He lived alone in a shack in a nearby settlement. Mbuyazwe last saw his son alive the day before he was killed. He had asked his father for R50. “I did not have cash that day. I told him to come back in the morning,” said Mbuyazwe.

That night, Mbuyazwe was awoken by people banging on his door and singing. They were demanding to see Sisonke.

“I told them I did not know where he is because he does not sleep in the house. They were pushing me. I could not identify them,” said Mbuyazwe. He could not sleep that night. It was the first time he had heard his son accused of anything criminal.

In the morning he heard people running in the street outside. “A neighbour came to my house and insisted that we don’t go to the scene because something bad had happened,” said Mbuyazwe.

He said while he was still speaking to his neighbour, he saw a small, black cloud up the road. “I insisted on going to see what was burnt.” There were branches of trees and he smelt petrol.

“I could not believe my eyes when I saw my son’s body being taken away by a mortuary van,” he said.

He said people were singing and celebrating his son’s death. “I watched them with sadness in my eyes. I did not understand why they were doing this to me.”

“All I want to know is who poured petrol and set my son alight. I know there were hundreds of people there, but only one person burned my son and that is the person I want to know,” he said.

“If Sisonke was a troublemaker they should have reported him to police. My son was never arrested for any robbery … If they reported him to the police first, then I would know that he was a troublemaker, and I would have helped him,” he said.

Sisonke’s stepmother, Joyce Gcobo, said, “He was a very respectful child. He would come to the house, share jokes, clean the house before he leaves.”

A community member who did not want to give his name said they were tired of criminals and the police took time to respond when called. Sometimes the police never came at all. “This is the reason we form a mob to clean all criminals from our community,” he said.

Nozibele Mtshoba, also from the community, said she did not understand mob justice. “I wish people could stop this killing and stop taking the law into their hands. They need to consider the families who are going to suffer after their children are killed.” She said despite the vigilantism crime remained high.

East London police spokesperson warrant officer Hazel Mqala said a case of murder had been opened and was still under investigation. She said that the investigative officer had told her he needed to take more statements from witnesses.

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