By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik
On 7 April a 19-year-old learner was allegedly murdered by other school children near Ngcobo in the rural Eastern Cape. The attack on him stems from years of feuding between the boys of two villages – Qithi and Gutyubeni – about two kilometres apart, separated by a river. The spark for the murder appears to have been a soccer match.
The victim cannot be named, as his next of kin (he was not living with them) have not yet been informed. Police spokesperson Khaya Thonjeni said police are investigating the murder. But Ngcobo Local Chief Noncedo Mgudlwa wants the authorities to do more to help her end the fighting.
The boys attack each other with pangas, knives and axes. Mgudlwa said the enmity between the village boys has been going on for the past three years and the exact cause is not known. Fights appear to start at Mgudlwa Senior Secondary, where the boys mix, and then escalate outside the school.
Despite the national Covid-19 lockdown, people have continued life as usual in the villages, including holding soccer tournaments. Mgudlwa and Ward Councillor Sandiso Ngxangu said they had told residents to obey the lockdown, but the soccer teams ignored them.
“The boys only listened to me while I was there. After I left they continued with their games,” said Mgudlwa.
While Mgudlwa was at the police station to report the matter, a fight erupted in Qithi village.
Eyewitness Vuyelelo Ncaphayi said on Monday, 6 April, a group of boys came to the playing field carrying sticks. They started attacking the other boys and chased them away from the field. Ncaphayi said he and some young men tried to intervene. The boys from Gutyubeni fled to their village.
Ncaphayi said that the following day, Tuesday, matches started smoothly.
Ngxangu went to the field to plead with the players to stop, but again they ignored him. By then Mgudlwa had already called the police to stop the soccer match. Ngxangu was waiting for the police when he heard there had been a sudden and brutal fight.
Ncaphayi saw what happened. “Tuesday’s fight happened very fast. One minute the boys were chasing each other with weapons, next thing the other boy was already down and was attacked with pangas. His friend tried to rescue him, but he was also attacked. And it was hard for us to stop them because they were running on an open field with these weapons,” he said.
“When we rushed there with police, two boys were already injured. One was in a very serious condition,” said Ngxangu.
Both boys were rushed to All Saints hospital; one died en route.
Mgudlwa said she has tried everything she can think of to stop the fights. She has called several community meetings with boys from both villages, their parents and police, but the boys only desist for a few months and then start fights again.
“This is the first death, but these boys are causing each other serious injuries. There was a time when parents of the boys who injured another boy were ordered to pay the medical bills, but that never stopped these boys from fighting. At our last meeting we asked the boys to tell us when another group starts the fight and we will punish them as parents, but instead of doing that they resort to revenge,” said Mgudlwa.
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