Community tense after chief burnt to death

2018-09-02 22:49

The Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders has condemned the brutal killing of a chief in Dindini Village, Mbizana, last Sunday.

Tension has been rising in the village since his death.

Nkosi Thulani Mjanyelwa (53) was allegedly killed by his subjects.

Nkosi Mwelo Nonkonyana, chairperson of the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders, who visited Mjanyelwa’s home, said the murder of a headman was not only shocking but also unprecedented.

He said he feared the wrath of the ancestors could befall the village.

There were no clear reasons or motives for Mjanyelwa’s killing.

Speculation was that he was at the centre of a dispute over traditional leadership in the area he occupied.

Mjanyelwa was allegedly tortured; his body mutilated. He was stabbed with his own assegai and burnt while still alive a few metres from his garden as he tried to run away from an angry mob allegedly baying for his blood.

When City Press visited the scene, there was still debris of burnt wood, evidence of his torching, and his wallet and some of his burnt clothes were still there.

Two of his children, a two-year-old girl and four-year-old boy, apparently witnessed the killing.

Mjanyelwa’s wife managed to escape and is now under police protection.

On Friday there were still remains of burnt furniture at the now-deserted homestead. Chickens and dogs that roamed around the home were the only signs of life left at the chief’s great place.

Documents, groceries and some building material were scattered over the yard.

“This is unprecedented; we see massive destruction of a traditional home [ikomkhulu] that is supposed to be respected by everyone.

“The other thing is a traumatic scene in which he was killed and torched.

“And you can see people decided to collect some material, such as planks and wood, to set fire to their own traditional leader. It is really a sorry scene,” Nonkonyana said.

He said the community was still tense.

“In terms of our own culture, when somebody has died, that family must actually mourn at the place.

“But this home is deserted and people are not coming which clearly means that there is a lot of tension among our people here.”

A special imbizo has been convened for Tuesday at which the community will be asked to allow the family to mourn and for the traditional leader to be buried at his home next Sunday, said Nonkonyana.

But a member of Mjanyelwa’s family said they were living in fear. The elderly women, who is a close relative of Nkosi Mjanyelwa, refused to give her name for fear of being killed. “We are very shocked and scared. As the Mjanyelwa family we are living in fear in our own village. We don’t know what exactly transpired as no one has told us what he did to be killed like this. We need to be protected.

“Even in terms of preparing for his funeral we cannot hold meetings at the great place in his home where he was killed because we are scared,” said the elderly lady.

She said they were still unsure where they would bury their son, who is supposed to be buried next to his ancestors at his home in Dindini where he died.

“But we are shocked to hear that people are saying if he is buried there the community will dig up his body along with those of other family members buried in that home,” she said.

Villagers were reluctant to speak.

Those who spoke to City Press anonymously said the chief was accused of being behind an attempt to kill the subheadman. Instead his two sons were burnt to death in their home a few weeks ago.

After the two were buried two weeks ago the community became agitated and allegedly demanded to have a meeting with Mjanyelwa. But he refused.

An elderly man, who also did not want to be named, said from what he heard the intention was not to kill the chief but to chase him out of the village.

“After the community held a meeting raising their complaints about the chief, they asked him to join the meeting but he refused. They went to his home to chase him out. But when they got there he came out with an assegai in his hand and that was when all hell broke loose and people started throwing stones at him which resulted in him being killed,” said the elderly men.

Police spokesperson Captain Edith Mjoko said police were still investigating and did not want to speculate on why the chief was killed.

Mjoko said six suspects appeared at the Mbizana Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday on charges of murder and malicious damage to property.

The case was postponed to September 13 for formal bail application.


A chief is dead. The community is tense. No matter what the disagreement was, surely it could have been sorted out in a non-violent manner? What would you have done?

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May 19 2019