He was full of joy, then he was killed: dad describes Thoriso’s final hours
Thrilled about a gift, he told his dad he wanted to 'live right for you'. A short while later he was beaten to death
In the corner of slain Thoriso Themane’s bedroom is a set of brand-new speakers he only got to touch once, before he was beaten up and left for dead just metres from his home.
His father, Pastor Mahlapahlapana Themane, 59, described his son’s joyful hours before he died, after receiving the gift he had so badly wanted for such a long time. “He was over the moon. He said to me: ‘Papa I’m going to live right for you’, and smiled, and I told him if you do that, you can ask anything from me and I’m going to do it for you.”
Themane said he had no choice but to use his credit card to buy the speakers last Thursday, but Thoriso only opened them on Saturday, hours before his death, allegedly at the hands of a gang of high school children.
His son is believed to have been coming home from music practice at church when he was attacked.
The killing has left his family and friends – and the country – reeling, with videos of the incident shared widely on social media.
At the opening of the precious speakers alongside his cousins, Themane said he had to rush to a church meeting and could barely chat with his son.
“I wish I knew that I was seeing him for the last time, I wish I could have come closer to look at him closely, but I walked away and said he must enjoy them ... this comes very vivid to me,” he said. Walking into the home, the mood was sombre with white chairs in the double garage. But guests were warmly welcomed by Themane.
Family and friends came in and out of the house, serving scones and juice to visitors, while pictures of Themane and two siblings were displayed on a brown room divider in the sitting room.
Police spokesperson Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe confirmed that five pupils – Grade 9 and 10 pupils from a local school – had been arrested over the weekend and were due to appear at the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court. A video of one of the suspects surfaced on Monday, in which he is heard saying the police won’t do anything to him because his father is “untouchable”. His father is a retired police warrant officer.
A sixth suspect was arrested on Thursday morning and more arrests were imminent, said National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi.
The suspects remain in police custody.
Scores of people protested outside the court, demanding justice for Themane. “I hope justice will be served. They should get what they deserve. I may not get my son back but I’ll be happier if they are given a sentence they deserve. It would soothe my pain and I think it would bring closure to this ordeal we have gone through,” he said. The road to recovery is not an easy one for the family, but faith seems to be key in the process of healing. “It’s the grace of God. My faith is my source of strength. There is nothing that happened outside his permission and power; he knew this before and I cannot question him,” said Themane.
Childhood friend and roommate Phuti Mabotja learnt of Themane’s death on social media. “I could not believe it. I saw it trending online but thought it was just one those lies that people circulate on social media,” he said.
Mabotja recalled how he and Themane worked in people’s gardens in the area to make extra cash so they could host local music shows. “He was very business-minded; he always came up with ideas of making money. He had aspiration of being a businessman,” he said.
‘He’s never stolen anything’
Mabotja crushed rumours that his friend could have been attacked for stealing a cellphone. “He’s never stolen anything in his life, ever since I’ve known him. I will miss all the countless moments we shared together, his passion for music, laughter and sense of humour the most, I think,” he told Times Select.
While Thoriso’s father was able to smile and speak about his son, he sometimes forgot that he is no more. “Every time I pass his room – which is the first one in the passage – I look at his bed and I get emotional and ask myself if it is really true that this guy is no more. Then I try to get to terms into it,” he said.
None of the accused pupils have made contact with the Themane family. “I think they are afraid and embarrassed. I wouldn’t wish I was them,” said Thoriso’s father. Despite the accused not making any apology, Themane said he had already forgiven them.
“I’ve forgiven the kids,” he said. “Sometimes I feel for their parents because they did not send them to do this ... they are like any other parent ... I can only sympathise with them. But as far as justice is concerned I think justice must be done,” he said. “If the justice system fails me, I will have a wound that will not heal.”