Protea South’s Realignment and the terrible price paid by one teenaged boy
On 6 May, Daily Maverick reported on the realignment of shacks in the Protea South Informal Settlement in readiness for an electric installation by Eskom. The exercise has been ongoing for several months, despite a High Court order against it – and the backdrop of severe contention between the ANC and the DA over the issue in court. The situation is, if anything, only escalating, culminating in the brutal mob murder of a young boy on Monday night. By BHEKI SIMELANE.
On Tuesday morning, 16-year-old Sibusiso went to check whether his friend and neighbour, 15-year-old Tsepiso Karadi, was ready for his school day at Sikaono Secondary.
Tsepiso would not be attending school that day, however. His uniform hung, crisply ironed, on a chair in the one-roomed shack he called home. Next to it sat his finely polished school shoes.
Tsepiso himself lay on his back on the floor of the shack, head first, at right angles to the bed, as though he had first tried to hide under the bed but had been dragged out. A mountain of stones were cast around his abdomen, an indication that he had been stoned as well. The upper right part of his eye was completely crushed and the eye itself hung over his right cheek. He had wet himself.
Sibusiso, terrified, ran back to his parents to tell them what he had seen.
And what, you might ask, had a boy so young done to deserve such a horrible death?
Tsepiso and his brother Puseletso (27) were adopted children whose adoptive parents – like their biological parents previously – had died. The siblings’ parents were originally from Lesotho and arrived in South Africa some three decades ago. Now, Tsepiso and Puseletso lived together in the shack and took care of themselves.
Meanwhile, in line with the realignment exercise in the Protea South Informal Settlement, Tsepiso had been ordered by the local council to stretch his fence to suit the exercise. He duly did so, but was met with disapproval from neighbours and fellow community members, who harassed him and contacted him continually. He was frequently asked to release the fence and allow cars to drive through, and was harassed and threatened by residents.
By Sunday evening, 25 May, a small mob came to his shack to attack.
On Sunday, the attackers pelted his shack with stones; by Monday night, they went for his person.
Some residents wondered aloud to Daily Maverick how it was possible that none of the close neighbours had heard him screaming as he was being stabbed, hit, stoned and stamped upon. Community members lined the streets leading to his shack in disbelief in the morning, wondering why his parents had not come to his rescue. Friends also came to help, only to be turned away by a neighbour who had already encountered the disturbing crime scene.
A 44-year-old local, Nokwanda Nxabisa, mother to one of Tsepiso's friends, was visibly sorrowful, restlessly moving her body and bellowing to anyone who would listen that Tsepiso did not deserve to die this way. "I don’t see the reason why Tsepiso was killed in such a senseless manner; instead, those who had a problem with him following the local councillor's order should have attacked the councillor.
“Tsepiso is a kid; he would not even been able to answer some of the questions that we have to grapple with today," she said.
Nxabisa challenged those who took issue with this to attack her at her own shack if they dared do that much.
Nxabisa's son, 16-year-old Zokwanda Nxabisa, a pupil at Ibhongo High in Soweto, still could not believe what had happened to his friend. He lay on his bed wrapped in his blankets, saying he had been struck by a splitting headache since his friend's death. Daily Maverick asked him what other issues could have contributed to his friend’s death; he simply answered that he had had enough of old people who deliberately refuse to do the right thing.
He added that he could not stop thinking that he might have died as well, as he regularly slept at his friend’s home.
Community members resolved on Tuesday to march to the perpetrators’ shacks to confront them about the murder and, perhaps, retaliate.
Protea South local ANC councillor Mapule Khumalo said at the time that she had not been alerted to the developments around Tsepiso's death.
Meanwhile, the realignment exercise is continuing unhindered, even by court order, and there's been growing concern over other conflicts as a result of the Protea South Informal Settlement exercise. Residents remain, to a large extent, unsatisfied. But how much more can the community stand to lose before the issue is resolved? DM
- Protea South: Who calls the shots, and how? in Daily Maverick.
- Protea South protests, from the inside, in Daily Maverick.
Photo by Greg Nicolson.