Save for a fading sign in white paint declaring it a “spaza”, house number 13511 Kutlwanong Street in Extension 11 in Vosloorus looks almost nondescript next to the posher addresses in this aspirational neighbourhood east of Joburg.
Five years ago, when Orlando Pirates and Bafana Bafana goalkeeper Senzo Meyiwa was mysteriously gunned down inside the modest dwelling, the spaza sign emblazoned across the front of the house gave it a semblance of identity.
The occupants, the family of songstress Kelly Khumalo, who at the time was the girlfriend of the slain goalie, did not sell anything more than perchance the singing talent of their eldest daughter. Word on the street is that they acquired the house in 2002.
They never bothered to remove the spaza sign despite the fact that they did not trade a single item during their occupancy. There’s a spaza shop up the road, run by a posse of Pakistanis.
“Six years now,” the one behind the counter responds, when asked how long they’ve been in the area.
He has no idea a man had been shot in that street, the shopkeeper says. At the house where Meyiwa fell, where once there wasn’t even a perimeter fence, now stands a new brick wall, shutting out prying eyes. The wire gate is also padlocked where before there was free access to the yard.
The yard is as unkempt, weeds knee-high. But there are new owners, the second since the fateful shooting.
“The people who bought the house after the Khumalos left did not stay long,” says a passing neighbour, “they said the house was haunted.”
Interestingly, The Sunday Independent reported that hours after Senzo Meyiwa was killed, his girlfriend Kelly Khumalo and her sister Zandile allegedly approached a nearby sangoma and asked for ritual cleansing.
Days later, the sisters’ mother, Gladness, allegedly also drove to the same sangoma’s house accompanied by Zandile and her then boyfriend Longwe Twala (music producer, Chicco Twala’s son), who is said to have told the traditional healer that he “couldn’t sleep at night because a dead person was strangling him”.
It is widely believed that the dead person he was referring to was reportedly Senzo Meyiwa’s ghost. The ghost issue is reiterated by the Khumalos' former neighbours, who say the house is haunted and when it was sold no one was willing to buy it initially, and that prospective buyers would develop cold feet upon learning that it was the house in which Senzo had been murdered.
In this area, you could be forgiven for thinking the whole neighbourhood had been sworn to the Mafia code of omertà. Suddenly, now no one knows anything about the much publicised shooting.
A chatty neighbour directly opposite the house takes a break from the DIY task of giving his paving a fresh lick of paint. He shuts down as soon as the conversation moves to the incident – October 29, 2014, when Meyiwa was shot, allegedly in the company of no fewer than five people. None of the people in the house at the time have been able to tell the police how Meyiwa exactly got to lose his life.
The conspiracy of silence is too loud as it comes in the same week that Khumalo was on television ostensibly “speaking out” about the murder of her then boyfriend. But the omertà in Vosloorus, a Mafia code of silence about criminal activity, and a refusal to give evidence to the police, persists to this day.
People would rather talk about what affects them personally than venture an opinion on “a simple murder that surprisingly baffles even seasoned police”. The neighbourhood is a typical middle-income area of bonded houses. A few houses down the road from the erstwhile Khumalo pad, a neighbour is putting up a new tiled roof.
Bettering themselves is clearly what is uppermost in the minds of the homeowners on Kutlwanong Street – until the gunshot shattered their tranquillity. Often referred to as Mzamo Acres, it is a neighbourhood of residents who want better, no doubt.
A man says the most frenetic the neighbourhood had been was when people reacted to the reward offered by the police: “Everybody now had a suspect he was bold to suggest to the police.”
In that pandemonium, an innocent man was fingered.
Zamokuhle Mbatha spent two weeks in police cells after he was pointed out in an identity parade at Jeppe Police Station as the man who pulled the trigger. Mbatha, 35, lives on Jika Street, a few paces away from the scene of the Meyiwa murder. He is unemployed and bored out of his wits with a life of doing nothing.
His walk is languid. On the day of our visit – Wednesday – the most exciting thing to have happened to him was the front-page story in the local knock-and-drop Kathorus Mail, where he gave an exclusive interview.
He says he prefers to say nothing – no surprise there – about the case.
“It has messed up my life,” he says.
It is the sum total of what he told the Kathorus Mail.
The dreadlocks that distinguished him as the killer, according to the police informant, are hidden under a hat. Whoever insists on describing him as a Rastafarian, thanks to the hairstyle, clearly elevated exaggeration to an art form.
Mbatha says the closest he’d been to Meyiwa was to wash his cars, a BMW X6 and “sometimes a Golf” and Khumalo’s Hummer.
“Otherwise, I had nothing to do with those people,” he says, walking back to the idleness that occupies his days.
At the other hair salon, one of two in the same street, the owner has disappeared – to avoid speaking to nosy strangers. The walls are ironically adorned in pictures of the Orlando Pirates team and insignia.
The Mahon Evangelical Church of Southern Africa is on the same street. The gospel of Matthew 28:18-20 is conspicuously displayed on a banner outside.
The silence of Kutlwanong Street and the Scriptures make for strange bedfellows.
Credit: The Sunday Independent