Why was ‘quiet and lovable’ grandmother killed?

A family that fled from their longtime home after their mother and grandmother was gunned down there are convinced the motive behind the murder was to evict them from the house.

It was around 7:45 pm on Thursday 7 June 2018 in Diepkloof Zone 5, Soweto, when two men knocked on the kitchen door of Patron Nyanese Kubayi, 76, who had come back from a prayer meeting a few hours before.

She opened the door and, without a word, the men fired four shots. Two bullets struck Kubayi and two others missed her, hitting the stove and the kitchen wall. Kubayi died in front of her grandchildren.

When the hitmen were gone, Kubayi’s 13-year-old grandson Sihle jumped over his grandmother’s prone body and went to tell his mother that ugogo had fallen in the kitchen passage. His mother was outside in a shack dwelling in the yard of the main house.

Eviction letters link to killing?

Lebogang Kubayi and her older sister, Khongela Kubayi, 44, believe their mother’s murder was a warning for them to evacuate the house. Kubayi was killed after receiving eviction letters from Mulatedzi Albert Mashau, who claimed to be the new owner of the house.

“We were not born when my parents started staying in the house. But they told us that they lived there since 1964. While growing up we have always known that was our home. However, until very recently we were informed that the house belongs to my father’s cousin who died,” said Khongela.

Mashau allegedly forced them to leave the house in 2012, said Khongela. About two years later an eviction letter came, which they followed up by trying the telephone number of the lawyer who sent the letter, Lebogang said. They discovered that both the phone number and physical address did not exist.

Lebogang said Mashau kept quiet for a year or so and then a second letter came on a Legal Wise letterhead. This time, he was accompanied by a policeman whose surname was similar to that of Nomsa Phapham, the lawyer whose name was on the Legal Wise letterhead, Lebogang explained.

The Kubayis sought their own legal representative and approached Legal Wise. They called Mashau to produce proof of purchase, which he failed to do, the sisters say. But what followed was the killing of their mother.

Legal Wise is ‘some kind of mediation’

New Frame contacted Phampham on the 16 April 2019 regarding their procedure before they issue out eviction letters.

Phampham said, “So we normally send the letter of demand so that the other part could come forth and say for example, ‘No, it is a family house’, sometimes you get a situation where a client would say [she or he] has a title deed, but when disclosed you find that the title deed was nullified at some point. Especially here in Soweto we have a lot of these stories do happen.”

“In most cases, when you write a letter of demand these people [the evictees] do come… We are some kind of mediation,” she explained. “The person has to produce a proof of title deed just to prove some ownership before we write a letter of demand.”

Asked whether Mashau did produce proof of ownership, Phampham said she could neither confirm nor deny since “we are paperless now and [this happened a long time ago].” However, Phampham requested questions to be emailed in order to verify whether her client, Mashau, had proof of ownership. She hasn’t yet responded to questions emailed on the 16th of April.

Lebogang’s son now ‘smoking nyaope’

Three weeks after burying their mother, the sisters left the area to live in an informal settlement nestled in Vlakfontein, about 32km south of Johannesburg.

At her sister’s three-room shack in Vlakfontein, Lebogang said when their mother died the whole family felt lost. “They killed me twice,” she said, her eyes glistening with tears. “First it was my mother and now it’s the future of my first-born child [he witnessed the murder].”

She added, “My son speaks about everything else that happened on that day and how they were all happy when my mother came from prayer but beyond this, he refuses to talk.”

The teenager, Sihle, was outside the shack when New Frame visited the family. Lebogang called him to come inside. He walked in wearing a rolled-up beanie perched on his head at an angle. “He is only 13 years old this year and already smoking nyaope. He refuses to go back to school,” she said, shaking her head as he left the kitchen.

“… Since we’ve come to stay here his future is getting destroyed … sometimes I wish to sleep forever and never wake up again. This is painful, traumatising and devastating,” said Lebogang, overcome by emotions. Her son has not received any counselling after witnessing his grandmother’s killing.

Khongelwa’s daughter’s diary

While Lebogang’s son’s life has drastically turned upside down, Khongelwa is also worried about two disturbing notes that her 12-year-old daughter Phindile has written, which detail her feelings over losing “ugogo wami, my friend”. 

In one of the notes, the young girl wrote: “… I was writing my English paper when at night my mother’s friend … called about 10:11pm. She said that my mother must come at Diepkloof because my grandmother was [shot] four times in the heart. My little cousin heard my grandmother fall. She screamed. Then my brother closed her mouth. They went through the window but she [ugogo] was already gone.”

“… I wish God would borrow me her for two minutes … to tell her goodbye. Just to kiss her … I don’t really know why people can be so evil to kill such a quiet, pretty and loveable soul. But I swear to the Almighty Father God that if I find them, I won’t lie to myself I will do what they did to my granny. They will be sorry.’’

Family wants justice

Khongelwa’s daughter is currently in grade seven. She tells New Frame that when she is older she wants to be a social worker. “I saw other people living on the streets, they are homeless. I want to help them to have homes.”

Asked if there is anything currently troubling her spirit, she answers “Yes”.

She bites the tip of her right thumb and keeps quiet for over a minute as her eyes well with tears. “It is my grandmother,” she says emotionally. “They took my grandmother away from me. I loved her more than my biological parents … I wanted to ask if she’s seen the people who shot her and why did they do it.”

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She adds, “I want those people to be arrested for more than 20 years. But still, my grandmother would never come back.”

The family wants justice and the perpetrators to be held accountable. To draw attention to their cause, Khongelwa sprayed graffiti on the wall of the house in which her mother was murdered. It reads: On the 7th June a 76 yr old gogo was shot and killed for this three-roomed house.

Khongelwa said, “I wrote this with the hope that someone would notice it and be keen to help us to make sure that justice is served for our mother.”

Family questions investigation

The Kubayis believe that the investigating officer at Diepkloof police station is delaying the case and not “doing a proper job”.

Khongelwa says the police were aware that their mother was shot, but two months after opening a case the Kubayis discovered that the docket was still written up as an inquest – a case in which a person’s death is yet to be determined.

In addition, “We’ve identified the so-called new house owner as the prime suspect which the officer did not interrogate or question. The officer only asked if he is involved in the killing of ugogo and the suspect said no, that was the end of it.”

Lebogang said, “We are thinking of telling him to close the docket and continue with his life because there is nothing solid happening about the progress of the case.”

Investigation ‘improperly done’

A police official who spoke to New Frame on condition of anonymity claimed the investigating officer is conducting an improper investigation. The official claims that the officer called a meeting with the family and Mashau to discuss what happened. But this apparently led to serious quarrels between them.

“It is grossly unlawful to combine a suspect with a complainant. This is not done at all,” the source said. “The officer should not be a mediator between the family and the suspect … He has to do his job, which is to investigate who killed umagogo … When he’s done with the investigation, it is only then when the suspects will come out to disclose that so and so paid us to kill umagogo.”

New Frame contacted Diepkloof police station about the progress of the case and the allegations levelled against the investigating officer. The police station’s spokesperson, Captain Matlou Mthethwa, said she was “shocked” about the allegations.

“The police station is doing its best to find the perpetrators,” she said, adding: “If the family is not pleased with the investigation let them come to the station commander, the station commander will take it from there. If they are still not happy again, they still have the right to go to court or the prosecutor and tell the prosecutor that ‘We are not happy about the case’.”

In the meantime, no one is living in the Diepkloof house that the Kubayis fled after the killing of their mother and grandmother. That only deepens the mystery, given that the family believes so strongly that Patron Nyanese Kubayi was murdered in order for the so-called new owner to be able to take occupation of the house.

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