Village savaged by serial killer now fears the worst again
Even after the murderer was apprehended, three more girls were killed ... and now another is missing
For residents of Butterworth in the Eastern Cape peaceful sleep seldom comes easily anymore. With the death of three teenage girls over almost as many years still fresh in their minds, they find themselves again in a state of panic since 18-year-old Luthando Makhabane went missing on June 1.
Luthando is a Grade 11 pupil at Jongilizwe Senior Secondary School. Now residents fear the worst but hope for the best. This is a community that has already lived through so much horror, said chief Mzikabawo Luzipho, traditional leader of Tholeni village.Since 2014 three teenage school girls who went missing in the villages near Butterworth were found dead.
This is the same area where convicted serial killer Bulelani Mabhayi raped and killed more than 30 women and children in a reign of terror that started in 2007 and only ended in 2012, when a shoelace left at one of the scenes finally tied him to the attacks.The police at the time went door to door to ask villagers if they knew who the shoelace belonged to, which led to the arrest of Mabhayi. He was later sentenced to 25 life sentences for 36 counts of murder, rape and robbery in the village of Tholeni.Mabhayi preyed on women and children, some of them his neighbours. He would break into their homes, rape the women and girls and then hack everyone to death with an axe. Few survived his terror.
Luzipho said his people and schoolchildren are still afraid to walk alone, and it is worse in winter when it is gets dark earlier.
“We just survived a serial killer, and immediately after that we saw three schoolgirls going missing and later found dead. The latest incident has left us panicking as we don’t know what happened to Luthando, but we are hoping for good news.”Pumeza Makhabane, the missing girl’s aunt, said the family were doing all they can to find her. “We are calling for anyone who might have seen her to come forward and assist us. What makes us worried is that her cellphone has been switched off since she left home on June 1. We just can’t sleep. Is she dead or alive? We don’t know and we are praying for her safe return.”
Makhabane said Luthando was a trusted person who would not disappear without telling her grandmother. “My mother-in-law is not feeling well at all after Luthando went missing,” she said.
Luthando’s disappearance makes her one of more than 30 children who have been reported missing between May last year to April and are still unaccounted for, said Missing Children South Africa organisation.Last week KwaZulu-Natal police reported that a three-month-old baby boy was stolen from her mother on the South Coast. Police spokesperson Colonel Thulani Zwane said: “He has not been found but police are following information they heard.”
Butterworth police spokesperson Captain Jackson Manatha confirmed Luthando disappeared three weeks ago, in the middle of her mid-year exams, from Machityane in Dlephu village.
“Police are doing their best to find her and anyone with information must come forward to assist us,” said Manatha.Other cases reported in the area in recent years:
In May last year 20-year-old Nandipha Mtuzula, a pupil at Cunningham High School in Tholeni, went missing for a month before her decapitated body was found.
In May 2016 a 16-year-old girl from the same school disappeared in similar circumstances and her body was found three days later, floating in the river.
In 2014, another girl went missing after school and was eventually found dead.
Bianca van Aswegen, national co-ordinator at Missing Children SA, said people should not wait to report a missing person. “The first 24 to 48 hours when a child goes missing are crucial. The first thing they need to do is open a missing person case with the police and then contact us so we can assist them as well,” she said.Van Aswegen said there are various reasons why children go missing: “We deal with runaways, kidnappings, family abductions and confirmed human trafficking cases. Also, both neglect and criminal activity contributes to children going missing.”
Between May 1 2017 and April 30, 124 missing children were reported to Missing Children SA, and 94 have been found.
“For the children’s cases alone our success rate is 75%. It is an unfortunate reality that 2% of the children found again were found deceased,” she said.
Missing children per province between May 2017 and April:..