Sunday Times E-Edition

They poured petrol all over and set it alight ... I saw my older brother burning


The cries for help of his burning brother and friends haunt a survivor of an horrific attack in which 10 people died after they were stripped and burnt alive in a drug den.

The 29-year-old is one of eight men lucky to be alive after a gang of heavily armed men stormed an RDP house in the KwaMpande area, near Pietermaritzburg, just before 7pm last Sunday.

The Sunday Times has learnt the house belonged to a known drug dealer, and “addicts” would visit to buy and smoke whoonga capsules. Residents were fed up with the crime and drug activity in the area, but their complaints to authorities fell on deaf ears.

The man, who asked not to be named because he fears for his life, said he remains traumatised by the attack in which his brother died.

“There were about 18 of us, and we were there smoking as usual. The dealer said he felt something bad was about to happen. He stood up, took his drugs, and left. We thought he was going to come back but five minutes later, five men armed with guns, pangas and security guard batons arrived.

“They claimed they were police officers. They had a list of names they asked for, including the dealer, but none of them was there. They said they don’t want drugs being sold in this house any more,” said the man, gently rubbing the burn wounds on his arm.

The man believes rival drug dealers put a hit out on the den because the attackers knew who they were looking for.

Some managed to escape when the attackers arrived, but those who couldn’t were butchered with pangas or assaulted. He said that after a heavy beating, they were ordered to undress and were locked in a tiny bathroom.

“They poured petrol all over and set it alight. We shouted for help but those who were at the door were already on fire. We couldn’t move. We couldn’t breathe, and there was smoke all over. I was by the window and when I lifted my eyes, I saw my older brother burning,” he said.

“There was nothing I could do. I was out of breath, had given up and was ready to burn also. I turned away towards the wall as I couldn’t watch. I could feel my back and arms burning, and I decided to climb up the window and escape.”

The dead are Thembinkosi Dlamini, Mthokozisi Madlala, Siyabonga Shelembe, Thambani Shelembe, Sanele Ngcobo, Sduduzo Nkomo, Simkile Zondi, Siyabonga Madondo, Thobani Ngubane and Zuzani Zondi.

Mthokozisi Madlala’s aunt, Ntathu Ncwane, 53, whose house is about 70m metres away, said she was getting ready for bed when they heard screams.

Ncwane went out and saw a huge fire blazing while a group of men kept pouring liquid around the house.

“I saw them leaving and getting into a car which was parked on the main road. After they left, we all ran to the house to try to extinguish the fire. When we got there, some of them had already got out of the burning house. It was bad. Seeing a person burnt was traumatising,” she said.

Thembinkosi Dlamini’s daughter, Thembelihle Khumalo, said she got there as her father was jumping out of the window of the burning house.

“I rushed to him and his skin was completely gone. I’m so heartbroken. He suffered a very painful death. Even though he was unemployed, he provided for me and my five siblings whenever he could,” she said.

The community called in an ambulance while others helped to transport the injured to the local clinic in private vehicles.

All families who spoke to the Sunday Times admitted their loved ones used drugs.

The house owner has not been seen since the attack.

Ward councillor Skhanyiso Makhaye said fed-up residents had approached him.

“The crime is a problem and this includes robberies, housebreaking and theft. The community complained to me about that and specifically about that house, which had turned into a drug den. They said the house would have more than 30 people inside and they would be smoking drugs. The community was fed up and asked me to address the matter,” he said.

Makhaye approached the Taylor’s Halt police station to inform officers about the drug den, but nothing was done, he said, while the complaints kept flooding in. The police failed to comment on this allegation.

He declined to say if the incident was the community taking the law into their own hands.

“The police are still investigating and we will let the law enforcement authorities uncover that.”

News | Royal Tiff




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