Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

Outraged members of the black community in northern Zululand have burnt down an Indian shopkeeper's store and threatened to kill his family after one of his assistants was found dead in a dam.

The tension in Ncotshane, outside Pongola, boiled over when the body of shop assistant Skhumbuzo "Gonondo" Mbokazi, 22, was found two weeks after he had gone missing.

Mbokazi disappeared after a group of Indians had allegedly locked him up in a storeroom because he was suspected of stealing.

His body was found on Tuesday in Jozini Dam.

Councillor Jabulani Ngwenya described the situation as tense and said emotions were "very high".

"People are so angry that on Tuesday night a large group gathered and burnt a store belonging to one of the Indian owners.

"The feeling is that they don't want to see them and their family operating in this area and I think for their safety they must not return here," Ngwenya said.

He said the community was also boycotting shops that belong to other Indian business owners.

Pongola police spokesman Inspector Bonginkosi Mkhize confirmed the incident.

"Two Indian businessmen were arrested and are expected to appear in the Pongola magistrates' court today," he said yesterday.

"The men are charged with kidnapping for now, but investigations are continuing.

"Our investigations have revealed that Mbokazi was last seen after he had been called into the shop by one of the suspects on April 5.

"They apparently wanted to question him about a break-in at the shop.

"He was taken into the back of the store and was heard screaming and crying."

Mkhize said Mbokazi was not seen again.

"His parents came to open the case five days later and we started searching.

"On Tuesday we got a call from our colleagues at the Jozini police station. They told us that they had found the body of an unknown male in a dam."

Mkhize said they took Mbokazi's parents to the dam and they positively identified the body of their son.

"He had been stuffed into a sack with some stones and thrown into the dam," Mkhize said. "Fortunately he was still easily identifiable when he was found."

Local businessman Tariku Mamuye condemned Mbokazi's kidnapping and murder.

"They should not have done what they allegedly did to him," Mamuye said.

"But at the same time I am aware of what led them to do it.

"As a business community we feel left out in the cold by both the law and community."

He felt the incident might affect other shopkeepers.

Ngwenya said: "The general feeling is that they must stop operating here and emotions will only calm down if the two are cleared in court."