Family attacked for 'raising the dead'

A LIMPOPO mother and her two sons have sought refuge at a police station after their home was torched by residents who accused them of causing a spate of deaths and raising the dead.

Residents of Nkambako village near Tzaneen accused Irene Mashele, 61, and her two sons Sydwell, 40, and Jabu Mashele, all sangomas, of causing all the deaths in the village by burying charms in every street. Angry villagers set the four Mashele houses on fire at midday on Saturday by a.

Mashele and her sons were badly beaten but refused to go to hospital, saying it was against the wishes of their ancestors.

A police officer told Sowetan the family said their gods will avenge their attack only if they remained like that and didn't go to hospital.

Residents claimed they caught Mashele red-handed burying muthi in the street the night before the attack.

They also claimed the village is haunted by ghosts of people who died a longtime ago and are now roaming the streets at night.

"We can't walk freely at night in this village without seeing ghosts of our dead villagers, all because of this family," said a villager.

Residents told Sowetan that Mashele was summoned to the local tribal court on Saturday where she was questioned about her evil deeds. She was then attacked when she refused to admit she practiced witchcraft.

Her sons, who were out harvesting herbs in the veld, were cornered and also assaulted.

Letsitele police arrived in time to rescue the family. Limpopo police spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said no arrests have been made.

He said the three have opened cases of assault, arson and another under the Witchcraft Suppression Act, which forbids anyone from accusing another person as a witch.

The Mashele family spent the night in the police yard, refusing to sleep in the station's victims empowerment centre on the grounds that their ancestors were against it.

A terrified Mashele refused to speak to Sowetan, only saying: "All I can say is that I'm not a witch. I heal people."

Mulaudzi said the R100000 reward offered last week for anyone with information that will lead to the arrest and successful prosecution of the actual suspects still stands.

At Mbilwi village in Venda, eight people accused of ritual murders have been placed under police protection after angry residents demolished their houses.

In May, Limpopo police announced the establishment of a task team to deal with the growing number of witchcraft violence and ritual murder-related cases.

In one case, they even offered a reward of R100000 for information after a house belonging to a resident accused of taking part in a ritual murder was torched.

"We are very much concerned that despite our communication drive, these things are still happening. It is a disgrace to the province," Mulaudzi said.

"We have a team that is investigating the latest incident and we are certain arrests will be made.

"However, we want to emphasize that this irresponsible behaviour will not be tolerated, hence there is a serious manhunt for people behind these attacks."



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