South Africa


Shots from a Broken World: A photojournalist’s encounters with conflict and resilience

Shots from a Broken World: A photojournalist’s encounters with conflict and resilience

In this extract, Greg Marinovich tells the story of the forgotten child soldiers of Thokoza – the ‘shameful, bitter fruit of liberation’ – and the poignant life and death of one of those soldiers, Merchant Mazibuko.

Bitter Fruit: Thokoza, South Africa, 2011

Sunday 21 August 2011. It was a cool night and the pervading sulphurous tang of the coal fire in the kitchen area of the corrugated-iron shack was familiar and comforting. Thabo and his friend Bongani sat low on seats recycled from scrap cars, sharing a joint, when they heard what sounded like a gunshot. The young men peered out. Illuminated by the sodium yellow of the high township lights, they saw a wheelchair on its side and a man immobile alongside it.Merchant!” Thabo cried out and ran the few metres up the sidewalk. Merchant was alive but not responding, and Thabo gave him mouth-to-mouth in an attempt to resuscitate him. Thabo loosened Merchant’s shoes and belt, believing he had suffered a fit; a consequence of his paralysis. It was then that Thabo noticed the bullet wound to his lower back; Merchant had been shot.

Thirty-eight-year-old Merchant Mazibuko died on one of South Africa’s most infamous thoroughfares – Thokoza’s Khumalo Street. Thokoza township lies east of Johannesburg, on the so-called East Rand, a string of towns, mines and settlements that trace the underground path of the rich gold seams. It is an impoverished and neglected product of the apartheid dormitory-town system created to house Africans out of sight of the white suburbs but within commuting distance of the mines, factories, shops and kitchens where they were meant to work. In the 1990s it was a violent place, where the power struggle between the IFP and the ANC raged in the shadow of apartheid’s final convulsions. When war erupted in the streets of Thokoza and Katlehong in 1990, most residents were caught unawares.

Seventeen-year-old Merchant was playing video games with friends at the local bicycle shop when a man ran in, begging for assistance. As the schoolboys watched, a band of men with strips of red cloth tied around their heads entered the shop, and proceeded to stab and club the man to death. It was the first time Merchant had seen death overtake life and a quiver of fear ran through him. In those early months of the war that followed on the heels of the unbanning of the liberation movements, thousands of Inkatha-supporting Zulus wearing red headscarves swept down the streets from the men-only workers’ hostels and killed every human, dog or cat they found.

As the killing of his school friends and neighbours became commonplace and township residents were evicted from their homes near the hostels, Merchant decided he had to assist in defending the neighbourhood. In an interview in 2010, two decades later, he recalled that on his first foray into battle, he killed eight Inkatha men. Teenagers like Merchant were the majority of the community defenders, pitted against the Inkatha-supporting adults of the hostels. Many were killed or became killers. Despite being aligned with the ANC, these local militia, later known as Self-Defence Units (SDUs), received little help from the mother organisation. National leadership did call on underground Umkhonto we Sizwe combatants to assist the SDUs, but not many in Thokoza heeded the call – except for one MK fighter, the rest would only fight for cash.

Merchant was elected commander of the Slovo section SDU, a neighbourhood more formally known as Penduka section. This was one of the most active frontlines of the “Hostel War”, as it became known. He led a band of young men – boys, really – who scraped together enough money to buy guns and bullets. When the war was at its peak, Merchant’s mother, Margaret Mazibuko, cashed in her meagre pension money and gave it to her son to buy ammunition. Other parents also contributed what they could. Merchant became a deadly and charismatic fighter with a ready smile, who told me that he had killed dozens of enemy combatants. He recounted these incidents without remorse or self-pity. Several of his victims were hostages, executed after being captured from the hostels. Merchant was a hero to most Thokoza residents. Without him and the SDUs, the IFP amabhuto would have conquered all of the residential areas around the hostels, and many families would have been displaced, or killed.

After the first democratic elections saw his political party sweep to power, Merchant tried to go back to school, but the animosity of the teachers and the teasing of the children who were his classmates drove him away. That he carried a pistol did not help. He was a young man without an education, skilled in the art of death – its implementation and its avoidance. He looked around and saw more politically connected comrades succeeding at peace, becoming wealthy. He decided to turn to crime to “enjoy the fruits of freedom”. During one of those crimes – a clothing store robbery – he was shot by police. His gang members, former SDU comrades, believing him dead, looted his room of everything they could carry off on the very day he was wounded. Merchant survived, but was paralysed from the shoulders down, with very limited use of his arms, his hands frozen like claws.

Merchant’s life shrank. Constrained, he spent most of his time waiting. He waited for his mother to help him into bed at night, in the single-room zinc shack in the backyard of the family home on Qwabe Street. He waited through the long nights trapped on his bed. He waited for his mother to help him out of bed at dawn, to wash him and assist him into the wheelchair. Before his hospital-issued motorised wheelchair irreparably broke down, Merchant’s morning routine was to manoeuvre himself down to the corner and into Nkaki Street, a major thoroughfare, where he would follow the white centre line, defying the traffic, until he reached the little shop where he bought cigarettes and his favourite newspaper. Then he would go back home waiting for the occasional visits from friends or former comrades that lifted the tedium of his day. After the electric wheelchair broke and he had to use a manual one, Merchant would wait for friends to come past who could push him to the store for his cigarettes and newspaper; sometimes he convinced them to follow the centre white line, but most were too fearful of the traffic.

This, at least, is what I knew of Merchant’s life; there was much I knew absolutely nothing about that his death would painstakingly reveal to me.

Bonginkosi – Merchant’s proper name – was the first born of MaMazibuko’s children and as such it was his duty to provide for the family. He was very bright and aspired to be a doctor, but the conflict had forced him to leave school before matriculating. His later disability meant all he had to contribute to the family was his monthly state disability pension of R1,400. Bonginkosi had to supplement the family income and so he regularly made the long, arduous journey to Khumalo Street before turning right and trundling slowly up to Khutuza hostel. Khutuza is one of three sprawling apartheid-era dormitories that line the south side of street. These were and are grim places, mostly home to those who worked the least desirable jobs on the Reef. The hostels became Inkatha fortresses in the nineties; the stronghold of the SDUs’ mortal enemies. Even during the Hostel War, at least in the first few months, naive kids from the township would enter to try to buy dagga. I would sometimes see their bodies lying in the alleys early in the mornings, before they were removed by the mid-morning police patrols. Two decades after he waged war against the denizens of those squalid buildings, Merchant regularly rolled in on his wheelchair, entirely defenceless, to buy an arm or two of marijuana that he would sell back in his neighbourhood.

Merchant was one of the damaged veterans of a civil war who were ignored by the party they helped bring to power and also by the communities who had once lionised them. These hardened, damaged heroes struggled to find a place in the democracy for which they had risked everything. On a few occasions, I would see a man walking along a Thokoza street with a peculiar, stuttering gait, unconcerned about cars or people and talking to himself. These men – there were several with a similar demeanour – would invariably be identified as former child soldiers who had been psychologically damaged by the war. On enquiring further, I was sometimes told that the harm had been caused by not washing or purifying themselves from the repeated use of war potion; it was common cause that those who used intelezi and other such potions had to ritually cleanse themselves or they would invite madness. Whatever one understood as the cause of their inner turmoil, they were traumatised youngsters whose psyches had not survived the conflict along with their bodies. They were as unacknowledged and uncared for by the society they had fought to defend as by the party they had represented. They were the shameful, bitter fruit of liberation, much like shell-shock victims after the First World War.

It was early in the morning after his murder in 2011 that I picked up one of Merchant’s friends, a former SDU member I’ll call K, a slightly chubby man in his mid-thirties with a perpetually startled look and eyes whose irises sported unexpected flecks of yellow. He was waiting near where Merchant had died, and took me to Thabo and Bongani, the young guys who had been the first to reach Merchant’s body. One in a red worker’s overall jacket and the other in a blue one, they related their version of what had happened that night. But first they told me that Merchant had been dealing. K said it was news to him, which in retrospect seems highly unlikely. It appeared that on the night in question, Merchant had gone to make a last purchase and, as he was making his way back down from the entrance of the hostel, he was shot and robbed. A senseless death, when any person could have robbed him with impunity. What was puzzling about the tale told by Thabo and his friend was that Merchant had been killed for marijuana worth about R300, yet the new mobile phone in one of his pockets and the cash in the other were left untouched.

K and I left Thabo and Bongani and drove to see Merchant’s mother, MaMazibuko, the knowledge of why he was killed heavy on us. In the darkness of her bedroom, MaMazibuko shed tears of rage and sorrow as she told me how she had lost her son, who was also her best friend, her husband, her brother, her Bonginkosi. “Why,” she wanted to know, “why did they kill him? He was helpless, even a child could klap him.” That is why I just patted her hand and stayed silent when she asked why they had killed her son. I did not want to add to her grief by telling her about his drug dealing.

In a school hall a few nights later, a group of former SDU fighters met to discuss the murder and their part in the funeral arrangements. A charismatic and dreadlocked former commander, M, led the meeting. There were not many men gathered in the roughly floored hall. Most of them were suspicious, resentful of my presence. Twenty years previously, they had all been teenagers carrying large Kalashnikovs. They had hated the occasional and arguably exploitative intrusion of journalists into their warzones. They had once told me that they had sometimes discussed shooting us, but decided we were not worth the waste of precious ammunition. The Geneva Convention does not apply to civilian militia, but even if it did and they had known of its existence, it was not something they would have entertained. They had their own localised and seemingly arbitrary codes of conduct that were rigorously enforced by some commanders, even to the extent of executing their own members; canings were common. They had survived the war, but few had come through intact.

Some were held up as heroes, legends. One name that came up repeatedly was that of the youngest of the combatants, a boy known as KottoKotto (from the sound of automatic gunfire). His comrades said that he had been only twelve when he first took part in combat. They said that this child had walked into the firing zone just as the SDUs were being driven back. He had a homemade pistol, a kwash, and began firing at the advancing IFP, facing off against dozens of armed men. When the fleeing SDUs turned and saw this, they were shamed by his courage and returned and repelled the attackers.

There was another incident I was told about that occurred towards the end of the Hostel War, when KottoKotto was left for dead as he hid under a pile of slain SDU comrades after Inkatha fighters attacked a safe house. The SDUs claimed that I had come to the house in the aftermath, once the bodies had been removed. I remember an incident that might have been the same one. I had photographed a faux leather cap on the sidewalk that was still smoking from a point-blank, execution-type shot, and, even more gruesomely, two balaclavas filled with brain matter that had left a broad red swathe of blood on the pavement. If this was the same charnel house that KottoKotto survived, it was little wonder his life did not run smoothly after the war – he was in jail on a seventeen-year sentence for rape and weapons charges. “He is no criminal,” one after the other of his former comrades told me. His mother said that he had been framed. I tried to get to see him at the prison, but despite having family and friends as intermediaries, he never agreed to a visit.

Two days after the meeting in the school hall, K and another of Merchant’s former comrades, L, a tall gangly man with oversized features and a heavenly gift for song, were at the ramshackle mortuary to help ease his passage to the afterlife. They were there to do the customary washing and dressing of their late friend’s body on behalf of the family, as his mother had requested. A cardboard tag was tied to Merchant’s toe, and his teeth were bared in a rictus of pain. His body was so wasted that the dull skin stretched across his bones. As L rolled him over to wash his back, the tiny entry wound of a low-calibre bullet became apparent. Finishing the cleansing, L unwrapped a carefully folded piece of newsprint the size of a hand. In it was an ochre powder that he poured into some water in the hand basin alongside his friend’s body. L began to bathe Merchant in the neutral-smelling liquid, chanting in isiXhosa: “Give us what we lack in this living earth. We ask your spirit to give us the truth about the person who shot you.” The potion was not to calm Merchant’s spirit, or speed it to the afterlife, but rather to strengthen it, to enable it to reveal his killer.It is for revenge,” explained K as he watched L perform the ritual. It was a scene that I might have witnessed and photographed in the 1990s, during the violence that was so endemic then, but never did. At the height of the conflict, access to such intimate moments was impossible. Later, outside the family home before the funeral, L said,I was wondering what kind of a human person killed Merchant like that. That hole speaks a lot to me. The intelezi was to give the spirit of Merchant revenge. As soldiers, we must fight. This is not a matter of disrespecting the law of God. If I myself was God, I would lay a very different punishment on someone who killed Merchant.”

Inside MaMazibuko’s bedroom, where the windows were smeared with whitewash in the mourning tradition, she and other women, including her eldest daughter Lothi, sat on blankets on the floor alongside her son’s coffin, which was behind a diaphanous curtain. MaMazibuko had draped a South African flag around her shoulders, its thin polyester incongruously flimsy against the weight of her grief. Finally, three family members and three comrades carried the coffin out to the tent erected outside the kitchen door. As the clergy and others struggled to lay the coffin neatly on a stand, there was a cry and MaMazibuko collapsed to the floor. K helped her up onto a plastic chair. She stared straight ahead, her face contorted in anger and grief. The service was divided up between a sermon and a combination of African Christian hymns and liberation songs; a handful of former child soldiers danced and sang rousingly, alternating with women in pine-green church uniforms who stepped and swayed to the spirituals.

Outside, on that bright day, many had gathered, dressed in their finery, as funerals are as much for establishing prestige as for mourning. Suddenly men were firing into the air and the jumpier or more traumatised among those gathered in the street ducked reflexively, then rose tentatively with a nervous laugh. Family, church members and two of the SDUs then brought Merchant’s coffin out of the tent and laid it on the sidewalk for a prayer before picking it up again and carrying it at shoulder height. The crowd sang and ran alongside the casket with that characteristic loping jog where the fifth footfall is slapped onto the ground to create the rhythm of the toyi-toyi. M carried a 9-millimetre pistol, which he and K passed between them, occasionally shooting into the air and provoking wild ululations. As we neared a group of police- men, either K or M, I can’t recall who, pushed the weapon at me, asking me to carry it as I was unlikely to be searched. I was uncomfortable, but not unduly so, and complied, carrying the unfamiliar and potent weight of that gleaming tool of death.

After some time, we came upon the hearse, a modified minivan, parked alongside the road. The undertakers’ assistants helped to slide in the coffin. A line of vehicles then followed the hearse to the cemetery several miles away. Merchant was finally laid to rest in the dusty red soil to a cacophony of pistol shots, liberation songs and the melancholy hymns of the church leaders. The former fighters and the youngsters who imitated their songs and revolutionary demeanour poured cheap whisky into the open grave, despite the priest’s admonishment. The chanting men smoked dagga, and one flipped a zol onto the coffin as a goodbye gift to his friend. The former fighters then began a frenzied assault on the mound of soil. Shovel after shovel of thick dirt pounded on top of the coffin and a cloud of red dust rose above us until Merchant was buried.

In the weeks following the funeral, spring warmed into summer and the first rains soothed the dust, but there was no overt progress by the police in figuring out who had killed Merchant. I had accepted the dagga theft explanation, yet the family had not, as I would discover. When MaMazibuko’s weeping had ceased, she had begun to investigate why her son was killed. She heard about the theft narrative and called me to come and chat. We sat in the sparsely furnished living room and she began by telling me that the stories I had heard that he was killed for dagga were simply not true. My immediate thought was that she did not want his memory tarnished, but instead she told me that she and Merchant had run the marijuana business as a team, that they had sold the drugs from the kitchen. “It’s illegal, but I can’t do otherwise,” she sighed. On the day he was killed, MaMazibuko said that she left the house at a quarter to eleven to go to church. “I left him money to go and buy [dagga] so that when I came back, I can start working because our church took only one hour. He left immediately. He brought that bag and put it in the cupboard waiting for me because his hands could not manage to roll the zols. It is me who puts it in the boxes so that people come and buy. That is why I said he was not going to buy because he was waiting for me to come from church and make these zols. So, when I came back from church I opened the cupboard, I see here is the stuff, [and said to myself] ‘Let me cook first so that he must eat.’”

MaMazibuko had been to the unveiling of a tombstone in Boipatong township earlier that morning. Boipatong was quite some distance away and she relied on minibus taxis for transport. Because the taxis only set off when they have sufficient passengers, she was delayed. As a result, she’d had to go straight to her church service at eleven and had not found the time to prepare a meal for lunch. When she got back from church, she therefore turned her attention to cooking. “I wanted to make him [Merchant] a nice meal, his favourite – chicken with carrots mashed in potato. When I finished cooking, the people came to buy. We were not short of dagga. We already bought for that day. It was three packets. I found them down there in the cupboard. When he left later he was going to buy cigarettes. We also sell cigarettes.”

Merchant did not have the money to buy more stock anyway, not until they’d sold enough of what they had, MaMazibuko said. It was a small, hand-to-mouth business run on the typical spaza-shop model.

That is how we were working; we were waiting to finish this one and then he goes down there to buy. Three packets cost R450, a packet is R150.” The currency was then between six and eight rand to the dollar. While MaMazibuko cooked, Merchant and his younger cousin watched a soccer match on television in his room, Pirates versus Sundowns. “They were eating and watching the football match,” she recalled. “When the match finished, they were already finished eating. Bonginkosi told that boy to go ask a cigarette from me. They smoked it together, that cigarette, both of them. When they finished, he went out. I did not see him go out. I asked this boy, ‘Uphi Bonginkosi?’ And he said, ‘He has gone to buy cigarettes, gogo.’ Cigarettes, not dagga, cigarettes. He would have said, ‘Hey, Mama, we have not got enough stuff.’ But we had; when I finished putting [the zols] in the boxes, I was left with two packets. He would not go to buy another one.”

Which brings us back to the information I was given by Thabo and Bongani, who claimed to have been the first on the scene after Merchant was shot, up on Khumalo Street opposite the hostels. They said he was killed for the arm of dagga he had just bought, yet according to MaMazibuko it was not possible that he had gone on a buying run. In addition, his wallet and new mobile phone were left on his person. They had fed me misleading information that I had initially believed. Why? I would later discover much more, and while I now do not think they killed Merchant, I suspect they know who did.

So, if not to buy drugs, then why had Merchant manoeuvred over two kilometres in his wheelchair? His young cousin who had been with him that afternoon said Merchant had received a call from what sounded like a woman, but he could not make out what she was saying. Merchant had told this person that he would come to them after the football match. He left home at about a quarter to six that evening. He was on the corner of Madondo and Khumalo streets when a female friend saw him. “Merchant, what do you want here, at this time?” she had asked. “There is someone who called me to meet them here. They were desperate, now whenever I call the phone, they are not answering,” he’d replied, annoyed. “Merchant, let us go,” his friend had said. “No, this person wants to see me desperately,” he’d insisted, before courteously escorting her up the street to her home and returning to the corner where he would be shot a while later.

This phone call is the one that killed Bonginkosi, but I don’t know how,” said MaMazibuko. Apparently there was a girl in Merchant’s life, someone his mother claimed was a prostitute who lived at one of the hostels on Khumalo Street. “Bonginkosi bought her these takkies, Adidas, [and] this razor haircut,” MaMazibuko told me. “He had done everything for her, because he loved that girl and I asked that girl, ‘What are you coming to do here?’ And she said, ‘I love Bonginkosi,’ and I said to her, ‘Be honest because I don’t think you will do things like I do. If you love him, love him honestly, because I don’t think you will wash him like I do.’ She said, ‘I love him, Mama.’ But when she came here, she would just leave in the morning, gone, and I was left with Bonginkosi to wash him … The girlfriend, it was two to three weeks we did not see her here. Because many a time when she came, she was looking for money. In the phone there was a message that was asking [for] money and he replied, ‘Sorry, baby, I don’t have enough. They took all the money from me, I have nothing. I am stressed myself.’”

In the days preceding his death, Merchant apparently received a phone call one night from a man threatening and cursing him. “It was all about that girl,” said MaMazibuko. There were also some “white pipe” (Methaqualone – Mandrax – crushed and mixed with dagga) addicts who owed Merchant money and wanted to keep buying dagga on credit, and who had begun to threaten him. “We are here to die; we are born to die, but I don’t know what he died for, because this person can’t even hold a cigarette, someone has to put a cigarette in his hand,” lamented MaMazibuko. “And I don’t know who killed him. I am not saying he must not die, but I want to know what it was about when he got death. I can’t sleep.”

There was another possibility: that the Inkatha veterans from the hostels had decided to kill their former enemy as retribution for the 1990s. “Even if due to the violence, I mean even if maybe these Zulus are stealing them one by one – revenge – even if it is like that, somebody must come out and let me know,” said MaMazibuko. The scenario that the family eventually came to believe was the most likely was that a former comrade, a fellow SDU member, killed Merchant. “Maybe Bonginkosi told him things he did not want to hear, or maybe it was an old grudge,” MaMazibuko surmised.

One of Merchant’s sisters – twenty-eight-year-old Phumzile, the wildest of the girls, self-assured, lively, stubborn – was at the forefront of pushing the police to investigate her brother’s death. Very little seemed to be happening and the family believed that the Thokoza detectives did not want to solve the crime, but Phumzile kept pushing and openly naming who she thought had killed her brother. One night, four months after her brother’s murder, Phumzile received a call and asked her mother if she could go to the local tavern, as they were calling her to come. MaMazibuko agreed, letting Phumzile’s nine-year-old son sleep in bed with her until his mom came home. Later that night, Phumzile knocked at the door, waking MaMazibuko.Mama, Mama, I’m back. Please open for me.” The old lady tried to wake the child, but he was fast asleep and she had to shove him to get him to open the door. When Phumzile came in, she left the door open.Shut the door, the tsotsis will come and kill us,” her mother reprimanded her. “Why do you enter the house and not close the door?” Phumzile retrieved her phone that had been charging on the cupboard and turned to leave.Now where are you going to?” MaMazibuko asked her.I’m going to shut the gate,” Phumzile replied.

When MaMazibuko woke the next morning, she was exhausted from her night of interrupted sleep. Her grandchild went out, but within minutes came running back in. “Mama, open the door, there is a dead person there, someone is dead there!” he cried. “Come, come and see.” Still wearing her nightdress, MaMazibuko followed him to the gate, where a crowd had gathered. “I just stood there at the gate wondering who was dead. I think I stood there for about thirty minutes with that nightdress.” Deciding that she better go out onto the street to take a look, she went back inside to wash and change. “I didn’t want to go and look at that person because I’m scared of corpses,” she told me. She asked the other women standing around, many of whom were her friends and neighbours, if they knew the deceased. They all said they didn’t recognise “her” – so it was a woman. When MaMazibuko eventually worked up the nerve to go and see, the police guarding the covered body would not let her look, to preserve the deceased’s dignity, they said.

The reason no one could identify the body, MaMazibuko learnt, was because it had been badly mutilated. MaMazibuko noticed three girls crying hysterically. She called them over.Do you know that girl?” she asked. They said they did not. “What are you crying for like this if you don’t know her?”

Hawu, the way she is so injured, yoh, Mama, yoh, that girl, yoh, yoh, yoh, she’s very injured, Mama,” answered one of the young women. MaMazibuko asked if she had seen what the girl was wearing.

No, Mama, she is naked. She has nothing. The only thing I saw was a bra and a green and white sweater.”

A green and white sweater?”

Yes, Mama. Here is green, plain green.”

You didn’t see anything else?”

The young woman told her that the dead woman had a razor-cut hairstyle. By now, MaMazibuko was feeling a little panicky. The sweater sounded familiar, but it couldn’t be her daughter, the neighbours would have recognised her, surely? And many girls had razor cuts nowadays. She went back indoors to call Phumzile’s mobile. Someone answered. “ ‘Hey, wena!’ I said, because I could hear that it was not Phumzile’s voice. I said, Give Phumzile the phone, I want to speak to her.’ I thought that Phumzile gave this girl the phone because she saw that it was me and that I’m going to shout at her. She said, ‘No, Mama, I picked this phone up when I’m going to work. I picked it at the gate; this phone is for the dead girl.’ ”

Phumzile had been raped, likely by more than one man. Her attackers had then poured acid over her face and chest, but she was a fighter, the splashes on her forearms showed her desperate attempt to fend off the attack. They had then strangled her and finally smashed her jaw almost off her face with a brick.

It did not take long for theories about what had happened to emerge. One was that the killer could have been a spurned would-be lover. One young man said that he had seen a text message on Phumzile’s phone that night which read: “I’m gonna kill you like a dog.” But then that message was deleted. He said he later saw her being dragged along the sidewalk at about two-thirty that morning. He was willing to testify to this, but the police never took his statement. It was impossible to nail down the truth, and once again, the police seemed either inept or corrupt. The family claimed that one detective had told them he needed R3,000 to investigate the murder; others had said they couldn’t help because they did not have police vehicles. But her mother did not believe that. “The boys who killed Phumzile are my neighbours,” MaMazibuko said, mentioning three young men by name. The motive? They had been hired to stop Phumzile from pursuing her brother’s killer, the killer that MaMazibuko believed was a former SDU comrade and whose name she shared with me. After Phumzile’s terrible death, I backed off pursuing the story.

The deaths of the two siblings just four months apart destroyed the Mazibuko family. Lothi, the oldest sister, succumbed to cancer at just thirty-eight years old, in February 2015. Mrs Margaret Mazibuko – MaMazibuko – died of a blood clot at age sixty-seven in 2018. To this day, no one has been charged with either Merchant’s or Phumzile’s murder. DM

Photojournalist Greg Marinovich has won both the Pulitzer Prize for photography and the Alan Paton Award for non-fiction writing. He has covered war and conflict throughout Africa and the world. In Shots from the Edge, he recounts his experiences in these hotspots, his encounters with rebels, child soldiers, illegal immigrants, militia members, peacekeepers, aid workers, genocide survivors and orphans, each with a remarkable story to tell. Shots from the Edge is published by Random House Penguin.


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