The discovery of five women’s mutilated bodies in a sugar cane field, in Hibberdene on the South Coast over the past four months, has sparked fears of a serial killer on the loose.
Zama Chiliza’s body was the latest to be found on Tuesday by women who were collecting wood in the bush in the Turton area.
The discovery happened a month after the bodies of sisters Akhona, 23, and Nosipho Gumede, 16, as well as Nelisiwe Dube, 22, and Baja Duma, who were found by hunters in the cane field on the South Coast. All had been reported missing by their families and lived within six kilometres of each other.
Chiliza, 38, was believed to have been returning from a clinic when she was killed. Her chest was sliced open and a piece of cloth stuffed in the wound.
Dube’s sister, Sthembile, said she was too scared to go to the shop. She said she suffered from post-traumatic stress and her body temperature remained high to such an extent that people thought she had Covid-19.
“The killer must be severely punished for wrecking our lives. We used to live in a peaceful community with no fear. I suspect that a syndicate is involved in these murders. I doubt it is one person,” she said.
Dube suffered stab wounds in the neck and body. She also had blisters on her face.
The family survives on grants and has to care for Dube’s three children.
Noel Gumede said when he reported his granddaughters missing, police told him that they were with their boyfriends and would return home.
“Before the girls disappeared, they had been preparing to cook a chicken stew but went to the shop and never returned. When I went to the police, I was told to relax, they would come back,” Gumede said.
Siya Gasa, on whose sugar cane farm the bodies were dumped, has issued a R20 000 reward to anyone who can provide information that would lead to the arrest of the killer. Gasa has also engaged the services of private investigators.
“The pattern seems to be the same, which gives an impression that a serial killer is on the loose. I wish the killer is found and punished with the harshest sentence ever because he kills defenceless women,” said Gasa.
Lucky Bhuyeni, chairperson of the community police forum in the area, said victims were sexually violated before they were killed.
Professor Nirmala Gopal, a criminologist from the Department of Criminology and Forensic Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said serial killers have specific psychological characteristics and one of them was getting a thrill from bodies being discovered and the news coverage that it gets.
“He believes that he is getting attention and in a warped way, this gives him an adrenaline rush. At the moment, with insufficient information, the community of Mthwalume is in paralysis. The situation is exacerbated by existing anxieties around Covid-19. This community is in need of trauma counselling and psychological support. The state should show some leadership in this area and provide the necessary psychological support,” said Gopal.
Yesterday, Police Minister Bheki Cele visited Mthwalume and confirmed the arrest of two suspects.
They were expected to appear in court tomorrow after they were found in possession of items linked to the deceased.
Cele who was accompanied by the provincial commissioner Thembinkosi Jula and the MEC for Safety and Liaison Bheki Ntuli including top police officials from Pretoria said he would beef up security by adding a mobile police unit with 15 additional members to patrol the are