Murder mysteries

We just want answers

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The Bulletin News

The chilling case of a little girl who went missing and was found dead three days later grows increasingly agitating for her family. Rato Nkutha, who reportedly went to a nearby store and never returned, was only 11 years old when she was found a street away from her neighbourhood with a swollen forehead and her bottom lip missing.
Two years before Rato’s death, her cousin, Nokulunga, who was also 11 years old, was found murdered in the middle of the street at about 5am. Both these cases, and a few more of a similar fashion, have raised grief and disappointment in the hearts of the communities involved.
It is a recurring question then, whether the police of eMbalenhle are doing enough to bring justice to the forefront of these cases.
Bongani Nkutha, the father of Nokulunga, explained that over the past two years, he has learned of four different cases in which young girls have been murdered and left to be found in ward 17 of eMbalenhle. After Nokulunga’s tragic death in 2016, two others, aged between 16 and 18, have been killed, and most recently, Rato was found.
A 2017 Crime Stats SA report showed that eMbalenhle was the worst ‘murder precinct’ in Mpumalanga, with 85 murders reported that year. eMbalenhle was also cited as the third worst precinct for attempted murder (41 reported cases), the third worst for assault with intention to cause grievous bodily harm (375 reported cases) and the second worst for rape (112 reported cases). The community’s concern is therefore strongly warranted, and their hope in the police
dwindles by the day.
Recounting the events surrounding his own daughter’s death, Bongani Nkutha said that “she changed into her play clothes at her grandmother’s house after school. She went to play with her friends as usual and never returned. When I came home from work around 5pm, I asked her brother where she was; he didn’t know.”
Nkutha said he and Gugu Mthembu, Nokulunga’s mother, went to the police station to report her missing around 9pm that night, and was told to wait 24 hours and then come back the following morning.
“Constable Mabuza said that there were some forms we had to fill in and they didn’t have them at the time and they would only be available in the morning,” said Mthembu, Nokulunga’s
mother. “We were so angered because by the next morning, a neighbour on her way to work came across our daughter’s body in the street,” she said. “We called the eMbalenhle police and
waited so long that we eventually phoned Secunda Police Station, and they arrived first.”
Several other members of the community have come forth with their experience of being sent back home and told to return after 24 hours when they attempted to report crimes. Over the past month, there have been two separate community marches in which memorandums were handed over to eMbalenhle SAPS station commander to undo the informal policy. Constable
Mthethwa, spokesperson for eMbalenhle SAPS, said that “there is no such policy.”
“People can report crimes immediately and at any time, and they are not allowed to be sent back,” she said.
When asked if it was true that individuals had indeed been told to come back the next day, Mthethwa said that she was not aware of any specific instances but if anyone had experienced such treatment, then they should come forth with the names of the officers involved and report them as individuals.
The families affected by the series of slaughter believe that there is a strong link between the cases because the girls disappeared around the same time (after school) and were found in similar conditions (raped, hit on the head and thrown away in public places to be found in the morning). Detective Captain Mlotshwa, the investigating officer of Rato’s case, said that he is
“not yet sure if the cases are linked.”
The Nkutha family remains unsettled about the deaths of their children, stating that the police have kept them “in the dark” regarding the progress of the cases. They are also perplexed that
two children could go missing in broad daylight with not a single witness.
“We just want answers,” said Zodwa Zuma, Rato’s mother. “We don’t know what we’re waiting for anymore because the police have gone silent.”
The Nkutha family alleged that the investigating officer had been taken to a house by a girl who had been with Rato on the day she went missing. “That little girl said that she and Rato were raped in that house on that day, and she pointed out the house to the officer,” Zuma said. “Why have they not made any arrests? The occupants of the house are valid suspects.”
In response to this allegation, Detective Captain Mlotshwa said that no such house was shown to him. In fact, the detective’s version of events paint an entirely different picture. He alleged
that Rato went missing when she went to a store with her mother, who told her daughter to wait for her while she went in. When the mother returned, the detective claimed, the child was gone.
Zuma denied the detective’s story, reiterating that he had told the family that a house had been pointed out to him, and that Rato left the house without her before she disappeared.
On the progress of the case (at the time of publishing), Mlotshwa said “we have no suspects at the moment” and that he was still awaiting results from the forensics team. According to him,
results could be expected within the following three weeks. – Rori Rathebe

The Bulletin
Rato Nkuna Photo supplied

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