On Monday a Khayelitsha grandfather heard a news report about a serial rapist who had assaulted dozens of children in his community, and another report about the murder of a Gugulethu toddler.
Hours later his nightmare started when his granddaughter, Zikhona Qhayi, 8, went missing. Yesterday her body was found on bushy dunes in Harare, Khayelitsha.
She is the second child to be murdered in Cape Town in five days. “I can’t believe this has happened to her. Our girl. She had her whole life in front of her. Now she’s just another dead child,” Max Seku, Zikhona’s grandfather, said yesterday near the spot where her body was found. “I heard about this happening to other children. I heard the awful things that have been happening and now it’s real. I saw her body with my own eyes.”
Zikhona’s mother, Tisia Qhayi, collapsed after hearing that her only child had been murdered, and Seku said she had been hospitalised for shock. After Zikhona’s body was found on the bushy dunes, angry community members gathered nearby as police officers scoured a large cordoned-off area. An officer could be seen carrying two evidence bags containing what appeared to be a man’s takkies and clothing. Members of the police’s tactical response team, some heavily armed, searched for clues, and a sniffer dog was used.
While police were busy on the dunes, residents cheered as a rumour spread that a man, apparently a relative of Seku’s, had been arrested for Zikhona’s murder. Shaking his head, Seku appeared dazed and eventually walked away from the cheering crowd, covering his ears to block the shouting.
It later emerged that no arrest had been made.
Earlier, Seku said Zikhona had been playing outside their Harare home on Monday afternoon. “She didn’t come inside at the usual time. By 8pm she still wasn’t inside,” he said.
Seku and Zikhona’s mother immediately started looking for her. At 1am they called the police. “We looked everywhere, but nothing. We were awake the whole night looking,” Seku said.
At 8am Seku saw a commotion on the dunes near their home. “I ran up the hill, through the bushes. Then I saw her. There was stuff lying around her,” he said. Seku said Zikhona had still been dressed in jeans and a pink top.
“I tried to see if she was stabbed, but couldn’t. I don’t know how she died. Who would hurt a child? Who would see something so little playing outside with her friends and then want to hurt this little person? I can’t understand. All I’m clinging to right now is that God gives and takes, and I need to make peace with that,” he said, wiping his tears away.
Seku said Zikhona had been a bright child who loved dancing.
On Friday, five days before Zikhona’s murder, three-year-old Athenkosi Nkone was killed in Gugulethu. A man who lived nearby has been arrested.
Last Tuesday, 21-month-old Ovayo Maxetuka went missing from his Khayelitsha home. His grandmother and a neighbour were arrested on suspicion of selling him. Ovayo was found unharmed three days later with a woman who has been arrested.
Last week police said they had arrested a 25-year-old man in Philippi who had been linked to more than 20 rapes in Khayelitsha involving children.
Anyone with information about Zikhona’s murder may contact Warrant Officer René Burger on 021 360 9000, Captain Sakkie van der Westhuizen on 079 880 9861 or CrimeStop anonymously on 08600 10111