Zodwa Madlala was discovered by neighbours in a house close to her home struggling to breathe‚ in a pool of blood.
Her breasts were cut‚ skin had been removed from her buttocks‚ from under her left arm‚ and from her vagina. Her left arm had also been cut‚ said her older sister Nelisiwe Madlala.
Almost three weeks later‚ the family have not heard anything from the Plessislaer police station. Family members say police were visible during the week following the incident but have not been seen since.
Zodwa and members of her family had been invited to a traditional ceremony at their aunt’s home on 14 January‚ said her older sister.
“It was a day like any other Saturday. We woke up‚ did some house chores in the morning before we went to our aunt’s house for the ceremony. Like in any other ceremony‚ we ate and drank‚ it was a good day. My sister was a bubbly person‚ but on that day something was different about her. She loved alcohol and she was known for jokes and a good heart after drinking. On that day she had low spirits‚ it was like she was forcing herself to drink. Even food‚ she hardly touched it.”
“Our friends and other people asked her what was the matter and she said nothing. I guess her instincts were telling her something‚” said Nelisiwe.
She and her boyfriend went to buy cigarettes and then went home. Zodwa apparently had also come home but she later returned to her aunt’s house.
“Around 5 in the morning I heard a knock on the door‚” said Nelisiwe. “It was a neighbour‚ asking me to wake up and come.”
Zodwa had been found in a house near her aunt’s house.
“We went down to the house where she was found. She was still breathing at the time but we were shocked to see such brutality. It was like someone was slaughtering a cow. Her blood was on the floor and some of it on the wall of the house where she was found. Her hair was even shaved‚ and there was missing skin on her body. Her vagina‚ buttocks‚ breasts and her left arm had been butchered.”
“We called an ambulance but they said we must wait for the police. She lost her life in front of us. There was nothing we could do. It was out of our hands‚” said Nelisiwe.
Zodwa was the mother of two children‚ a 12-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son. Family members described her as someone with a good heart.
“She loved her children and she was one person who made the family laugh with her lame jokes‚ especially when she was drunk‚” said her aunt‚ Thandi Madlala.
Neighbours say since the murder they are afraid. “We are now scared to walk in the dark‚” said Ntombikhona Majozi‚ who lives a few metres away from the house where Madlala was found fighting for her life.
“We sleep like birds. We react to any unusual sound. If the dogs bark at night or in the middle of the night we ask ourselves who are they killing now? Since no-one has been arrested we are overwhelmed by fear. It’s like we are living in another area‚ not in eMadwaleni. We are urging the police to treat this matter seriously.”
“What if there are people on a mission to cut people’s body parts? Our children are not safe‚” said Majozi. Nelisiwe said the family hoped the police would make an arrest. “We haven’t heard anything from them. We only hear rumours that they have arrested someone and that is it. Our greatest fear is that we might end up knowing nothing. It won’t be a surprise if one day we are told that the case has been withdrawn without proper investigation. A man was found murdered in the same house last year and until now the killers have not been arrested. My sister is the fourth person killed in this location.”
“But police are only visible during the early days after the incident. After that you never hear from them. We have heard nothing from the investigating officer. We don’t know what is happening. We would like the law to take its course‚” said Nelisiwe.
Police spokesperson Thulani Zwane said contrary to rumours no arrests had been made. He said police were still investigating. Asked to respond to residents’ complaints that police were “nowhere to be seen” in the area‚ he said: “If the residents‚ family members or community at large have complaints‚ that must be reported to the station commander/cluster commander at the station.”
Zwane further said: “It is possible that the person who killed the woman is from the community. It could happen that some of the people heard something‚ that small information is valuable to the police. The residents should also help the police with information.”
* Originally published on GroundUp.