Slain boy’s family remain puzzled by arrest of neighbour

Gogo Nophumlile Mkontwana wants answers about her grandson’s death.

Hearing about the arrest of Aphiwe Vakele on charges of kidnapping and murder had given the family of Lukhololwam Mkontwana, 8, hope of finding out why their innocent child had been targeted.

But the arrest has come with a huge burden on the family members’ health.

Lukhololwam was kidnapped in September 2022 while he was playing outside his home with other children.

The kidnappers demanded a ransom of R100 000, which the family simply couldn’t pay, as his mother was working as a junior chef at the time.

Mr Vakele, who is a neighbour to the Mkontwanas, had helped the family search for the child and even accompanied them to the police station.

The lifeless body of Lukhololwam was found six days after he was kidnapped. His hands were bound behind him and his face covered with tape.

Mr Vakele was arrested on January 4 and appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday January 9.

According to the family, a jealous lover helped the police arrest him.

In harrowing detail, Lukhololwam’s grandmother Nophumlile Mkontwana described the arrest of the alleged kidnapper as “a horror” that took them back to square one.

“We are petrified. After hearing that the police have arrested a killer of my grandson and he is our neighbour, I went through hell and fainted on the spot. Why did he kill him?”

At her Nyanga home, she shared her pain at the loss of her grandson, saying her family felt incomplete without the little boy.

“I now take depression and hypertension tablets. The bad thing was that we see (Mr Vakele’s) mother every day. They are the neighbours. We cannot breathe properly. They are suffocating us. His arrest has taken us back to the horrific incident. We were healing and mending with his killing but after the suspect was arrested, we went back. I struggle to understand how he could kill him,” she said.

She said the family was grateful to the detectives who made a breakthrough in this case. “But I doubt that he was alone. He must reveal the other suspects. He must also tell us the reason behind the killing.”

Nyanga Community Police Forum (CPF) secretary, Dumisani Qwebe, applauded the good work that led to the arrest of the suspect. “They have done sterling work. I must also commend the community for assisting. But we are all shocked with the news of the neighbour’s arrest,” said Mr Qwabe.

The family’s shock was felt by the community. Last Friday, January 19, angry residents dismantled the suspect’s shack. They said they were hurt by what had happened.

Western Cape police spokesperson, Captain FC van Wyk, confirmed the arrest.

The shack of Aphiwe Vakele was dismantled by the angry residents last Friday.