Domestic worker killed defending employers against robbers
Fighting like a lioness, Mitah Mathinya stood between two knifemen and her ailing employer and his autistic son
Mortally wounded Mitah Mathinya died fighting like a lioness, determined to save the lives of a family that was not her own.
Stabbed six times in the chest and back, 66-year-old Mathinya – whose employers have hailed her as hero – stopped the two knifemen from killing her “adoptive family” moments after they broke into their Bloemfontein home on Friday morning.
Despite being outnumbered by a gang of heavily armed house robbers, she fought kicking and screaming to hold back her attackers from her gravely ill employer and his autistic son.
But on Saturday morning, employer Herman Toerien shared the sad news that Mathinya had died after her head was repeatedly slammed into the wall during the attack.
Mathinya had been sweeping the yard of Toerien’s Langenhoven Park home when the robbers launched their attack.
Toerien, who has cancer and is undergoing chemotherapy, was sitting in the lounge working on his computer while his 25-year-old son, Jandre, slept in his bedroom.
“I heard Mitah screaming and screaming. She was yelling for me to close the gate [the passage security gate].
“The dogs Nala and Liela went ballistic and ran to her defence. They loved her and ran straight to her, but something happened, because they immediately ran outside after reaching her,” said Toerien.
Weakened by his treatment, Toerien moved as quickly as he could to close the passage security gate separating them from the robbers.
“All I could think about was Jandre who was asleep in his bedroom. He is very autistic and battles to speak. I was petrified they would kill him if he didn’t tell them where the safe and the safe key were.”
As Toerien headed to the security gate, he heard Mathinya wrestling with the attackers in the passage.
“I could hear her screaming. It was the most ferocious screams I have ever heard. It sounded like a wild animal, like a lioness defending her cubs. I could hear her punching the men. She was screaming at me to lock the gate.”
As Toerien, who was unarmed, tried to close the gate, one of the robbers managed to break free from Mathinya’s grip and rushed through to the lounge, overpowering him, tackling him to the ground and trying to stab him. Fortunately, the robber missed, with the flat of the blade striking Toerien’s back, leaving him uninjured.
“I remember Mitah yelling over and over again that she was coming to help me. I had the man on top of me. He was punching me. As he attacked me I could hear Mitah wrestling with the other man. She was screaming she was coming and then suddenly there was silence. I will never forget that sudden silence.”
Unbeknown to Toerien, the second attacker had overpowered Mathinya, who had been weakened by the loss of blood from her stab wounds, and repeatedly smashed her head against the wall to silence her.
The attackers then bound Toerien with cable ties before demanding to know where the safe was.
“I couldn’t remember where they [the keys] were. I was dazed and confused. I didn’t know what had happened to Mitah and was scared they would find Jandre.”
The attackers, spotting Jandre, who had been woken by the commotion, running towards them from his bedroom, fled, taking a cellphone with them.
Eventually breaking free from the cable ties, Toerien found Mathinya lying unconscious near the passage security gate where she had collapsed just metres from where he had been overpowered.
He called an ambulance, and paramedics rushed Mathinya to a nearby hospital where she died later on Saturday.
“She is our hero. If it had not been for Mitah, I have no doubt that the men would have killed Jandre and I. Even though she was repeatedly stabbed she carried on fighting. They killed her because they knew if they didn’t they would never succeed in robbing us.”
Toerien’s wife Joan, who was out shopping at the time of the attack, said although Mathinya had only been working for the family for 17 months, she was part of the family.
“She was a beautiful, kind and caring person. She was an incredible soul who loved us all, especially Jandre. She died fighting to keep Jandre and Herman alive.”
She said the entire family was devastated by what had happened.
“We have lost a part of us.”
Mathinya’s granddaughter, Lerato Mathinya, described her grandmother as a selfless woman.
“She was a person who always insisted on doing the right thing.
“She raised us with the saying that ‘above all, love and care for everyone irrespective of who they are and what they did to you, because that is what Jesus expects of us as his children’.”
Mathinya said details of her grandmother’s funeral would be finalised this week.