South Africa


Families of victims of Mdlalose Tavern massacre decry withdrawal of charges against accused

Families of victims of Mdlalose Tavern massacre decry withdrawal of charges against accused
A family member speaks at the service while holding a framed photo of a loved one killed in the mass shooting in Nomzamo Park, Soweto. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Zweli Nzimande, who lost his son in the attack, said: ‘Not a single community member knows why the charges against the accused were dropped. South African laws favour people with money.’

During a ceremony on Sunday in remembrance of the victims of the Mdlalose Tavern massacre in Nomzamo Park, Soweto, the withdrawal of charges against the accused came under fire from the families of the victims, the community and KZN amakhosi. 

Hundreds of people braved the cold weather to attend the event, which was marked by memorial speeches, and Zulu cultural dance and song. Fourteen of the 16 victims of the attack on the tavern last July were from Umzimkhulu in KwaZulu-Natal, and that area’s amakhosi (traditional leaders) came to Nomzamo Park on Sunday, 9 July, to join the community in mourning their dead. 

Nomzamo Park is an impoverished informal settlement in Orlando, Soweto. 

Mdlalose Tavern shooting suspects at the Orlando Magistrates’ Court on 5 December 2022 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

The amakhosi said they were angered by the decision to release the suspects and labelled the criminal justice as “drunk”. The amakhosi, as well as the families and the community of Nomzamo, called for a justice system that does not work only for the rich. 

The leader of the amakhosi, Inkosi Vusi Mchunu, was scathing: “Who created such justice?” Mchunu asked. “SAPS arrests the culprits, but justice comes along and releases them. 

“In isiXhosa, they say justice doesn’t drink. No, this gets drunk. And when justice gets drunk, she does so upon us. Who created such drunken justice which only recognises the rich?” Mchunu asked.

The National Prosecuting Authority’s (NPA’s) Gauteng manager, Phindi Mjonondwane, said at the time of the suspects’ release: “The NPA concluded that there are no prospects of a successful prosecution, as requests for further investigation were not complied with due to witnesses fearing for their lives or witnesses subsequently losing their lives.”  

Nomzamo Park residents protest outside the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court during the court appearance of one of the suspect in the Nomzamo Park tavern shooting on 16 February 2023 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Nomzamo: A ‘cursed’ Soweto community where campaign promises offer little hope   

Ayabulela Macingwane lost her younger brother Siphexolo Qhiliza in the tavern massacre.

“It doesn’t seem like justice will ever prevail in this case. We are distraught as a family because our brother died for nothing,” Macingwane said during the memorial service.

Community leader Spesheli Jaca said, “We are confused and angered by the way the case has been progressing but we are encouraged by this event today. We are waiting to see what the government intends to do.” 

Zingisile Golimpi lost his son Simthembile Gamede in the massacre. 

“We cannot bring him back to life, but justice would go a long way in remedying the pain in our hearts. Justice in this country only favours the rich,” said Golimpi. 

One of the organisers of the event, Wandile Rafuza, told the gathering that the reason for organising it was to ensure that the case remains on people’s lips. 

“We know that when you do not have money nobody listens to you. The brigadiers are sitting with a lot of evidence but the case remains unresolved,” said Rafuza. 

Orlando Police Station commander Brigadier Nonhlanhla Kubheka said: “The community must not despair because the case is alive as the charges were only provisionally withdrawn.” 

But Zweli Nzimande, who lost his son in the attack, said: “Not a single community member knows why the charges against the accused were dropped. South African laws favour people with money.” DM


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