By Ovayo Milisa Novukela
Nine months ago, on 5 September 2022, residents discovered the body of a three-year-old girl, Mbali Koba, at her home in the early morning hours after being brutally raped and murdered. A few days later, community members marched to the Alicedale police station demanding updates on the murder and other unsolved cases. Nine months after Mbali’s murder, the investigation was withdrawn due to insufficient evidence.
On Thursday, 8 June 2023, Grocotts Mail went to Alicedale to meet with Mbali’s mother, Vuyokazi Koba, her stepfather, Ntsikelelo January, and the community task team dealing with Mbali’s murder case.
Following Mbali’s funeral, there was no communication between the Police, Alicedale community members, particularly the task team and Mbali’s parents.
After Mbali’s murder, Alicedale community members, led by the community task team leader, Martin Ruiters, gave a memorandum to the Alicedale Police Station that indicated problems that needed to be solved. This included Mbali Kaba and ten other murder cases that haven’t been solved in the area over the last five years.
“Ever since the march and the funeral of Mbali, we haven’t received any information from the police about the Mbali investigation case, and we have been asking the police for feedback as the community about this case, and all [the police]say is that they will come back to us,” said Ruiters.
Ruiters added that the Police had made no progress in interviewing murder suspects. He believes they could have done more in the case, like going door to door to find answers.
“I believe that Grahamstown Police Officers are [not doing their jobs properly, just like]the Alicedale Police Officers,” said Ruiters.
Mbali’s tearful mother, Vuyokazi Kana, said she was heartbroken and disappointed in the Grahamstown Police Station and Alicedale Community Station, primarily in how the case was handled.
“I got a call from Detective Siphokazi Yolani [the detective handling the case]to meet them and another police officer outside the Alicedale Police Station. When I arrived, they didn’t even sit me down; they just said that the case had been withdrawn due to lack of evidence,” said Kana.
Kana added that she only truly reflected on what had happened ten minutes after they left and immediately went to Care Alicedale, her daughter’s former creche, for assistance.
Kana said she and her partner have struggled to deal with her daughter’s death. “I wanted to stop living on this earth because the pain was just too much, but Care Alicedale and the task team helped me recover, and I am still recovering,” said Kana. Although she has received support from the community, she has not received counselling to help her deal with her daughter’s death.
Ruiters said that counselling services must be offered to Kana and her partner as they are still traumatised by the incident, and this scar is profound and challenging to heal.
Emotions were high as one of the task team members, Vuyokazi Ncula, was worried and concerned about the safety of Alicedale community members, “I don’t trust and believe in the police one bit, and Alicedale is not what it was a long time, it’s becoming more and more unsafe not only for us women but also our children to the point that at 5 pm I don’t care whether the sun is still shining, but all my children must be inside the house,” said Ncula.
She said it is unfair to Mbali, her parents or the community that the killer has not been found. Ncula, with other members, also added that Mbali’s alleged killer is in the community.
“A witness went to Vuyokazi’s [Kana] house and confessed in front of [various people]who killed Mbali,” said Ncula. She added that the witness, whose identity is known to Grocott’s, almost became a victim of the alleged murderer but was lucky enough to escape by jumping out of a moving car. Ncula added that the witness confessed to the Police and opened a case against the alleged suspect but withdrew the issue the same day.
Ruiters indicated that the community wants the leading investigator removed and the case to be opened again. “We would like another detective that will investigate the case properly to serve justice and closure to the community, the parents of Mbali and Mbali spirit,” said Ruiters.
Another member of the task team, Nombulelo Madikana, also indicated that the Police must frequently come to the community and give them updates on not only Mbali’s case but also the other cases that are related to murder and GBV.