Contributed by Dedre Muller.
Gauteng has been rocked by reports of horror crimes against two small children. Here are their stories:
‘I’ve never seen such a thing’
Anelise Mkhondo was small for her age. The five-year-old was shy, never speaking to anyone until she had known them for some time.
She lived with six of her cousins and her grandparents in a Diepsloot shack that could barely fit two double beds.
On Saturday afternoon, she was seen just outside the small structure, playing with other children.
That was the last time her grandparents, Thabo and Bongiwe Mcubuse, saw her alive.
On Monday morning, a small group of community work programme (CWP) members were on a recycling run, sifting through the pile of rubbish surrounding a dumpster just metres away from where Anelise was last seen.
Screams rang throughout the area as one of the women discovered the five-year-old’s body, strangled with what appeared to be a piece of plastic.
Some CWP members fainted at the horrific sight, said Thoko Makate.
As a mother herself, it had truly hit home. Her heart ached after seeing the child’s body.
Just before 9am, neighbours ran to the Mcubuse shack with news of their granddaughter’s death. Bongiwe fainted after hearing the news, and her 69-year-old husband had to revive her.
“Since I was born I have never seen or heard of such a thing,” Thabo told The Star, as his wife wept beside him.
The couple were frantic after Anelise went missing on Saturday evening, rushing to the police station to lay a missing persons case. The couple handed over their only picture of Anelise to the investigating officer, begging him to find her. But by Sunday night the couple were losing hope.
Anelise had become their responsibility after her parents agreed to let her live with them.
Bongiwe said Anelise’s mother was inconsolable when she spoke with her at mid-morning.
The murder has triggered waves of anger throughout the local community, and one man who approached The Star said he had been accused of murdering the five-year-old, with his home being ransacked.
Police have launched a manhunt for the perpetrator.
“Police are appealing to anyone who might have information to contact the local police station. Information may also be forwarded to Crime Stop at 086 001 10111 or an SMS to Primedia Crime Line at 32211 at all hours,” said Gauteng police spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini.
‘They must burn this place’
Keabetswe Tshabalala’s friends last saw her walking away with her bag of toys draped over her shoulder.
They watched as she left the safety of her home, led away by two men who walked her up Letseka Street in Katlehong.
When the three got to the end of the road, they turned right and Keabetswe’s playmates lost sight of her. Subsequently, a frantic search for the four-year-old followed. It ended tragically on Monday morning – a kilometre from where she disappeared – when Keabetswe’s mother and aunt, with a local resident, found her in the Bhelekazi Fulathela recycling centre.
She had been strangled with a shoelace and left hanging from a hook on the wall of an abandoned building. Her jeans and panties lay on the floor, and detectives suspect she was raped.
“At 2 o’clock, her mother called her for her bath, and when she couldn’t find her, realised she was missing,” said Keabetswe’s uncle, Thabiso Radebe.
The family and residents immediately began looking for her.
“During the night we even went to the recycling centre, but didn’t find anything,” said Radebe.
While her parents were at the police station, her two grandmothers – Constance Baleni and Matsietsi Motloung – sat in the house, trying to make sense of why a generally cautious child would have wandered from home.
“It seems it must have been a person who knows her, because she was a wise child and wouldn’t have walked away with just anyone,” said Baleni. “She never played far from home.”
Police spokesman Captain Mega Ndobe said detectives suspect that Keabetswe was raped in the abandoned building, probably close to where her body was left.
As news spread of the murder, police had to disperse a crowd that had gathered at the crime scene.
Some set fire to grass and piles of plastic that lay strewn around the recycling site. A fire engine was called to put out the fire.
“They must burn this place because this is not the first time that this has happened,” said Motloung.
Meanwhile, detectives have arrested a 37-year-old suspect in connection with the suspected rape and murder of Keabetswe, police said.