Burnt, decapitated and fed to pigs — grizzly trail of murders grips East Rand
Tony David Mziza was a “sacrificial lamb” whose death opened up an investigation into a string of grizzly murders on the Putfontein plots in Benoni.
That is how family view the gruesome death of the 37-year-old, who was shot on the plot where he lived and ran a trucking business with his brother and cousin on the East Rand in Gauteng.
His body, burnt beyond recognition, was found in veld about 300m away from where he died. Only part of his shoe could be identified by his family.
Mziza was killed on May 21, according to police records. Since then, another two other bodies have been found.
One of the victims, a man, was allegedly shredded and fed to pigs while the other was “allegedly decapitated” and the head “dumped into a septic tank” according to a statement by provincial police spokesperson Brig Mathapelo Peters.
Four men have been arrested in the wake of Mziza’s murder, though one of them was linked only to an alleged robbery at the plot. Peters said the remaining three were suspected of being involved in the decapitation.
“Police are working closely with the prosecuting authorities towards a possible centralisation of the cases, as there is reason to believe that all arrested suspects may be implicated. At the same time, the possibility of the suspects being linked to more crimes cannot be ruled out pending the outcome of the ballistic tests,” said Peters.
Police earlier said 19 firearms — 10 of them illegal — were recovered on plots where the crimes were committed.
Mziza died on the day his last-born son was to celebrate his first birthday, according to his brother Aubrey. Aubrey said his brother had mysteriously disappeared while his seven-year-old son was visiting him.
“We received a call from his landlord saying we should come take the child as Tony left him alone. We thought it was weird as he was a very responsible person who always communicated his whereabouts,” he said.
Attempts to locate Mziza were unsuccessful. The family went to his plot but were told he left without saying where he was going. But they noticed locks had been changed at a storage facility and cargo appeared to have been stolen.
“I immediately knew something was wrong. We later went to the police station to open a missing person's case ... When we returned the next day, police said they had found a body matching our description.
“We went to the mortuary and what we witnessed was so bad. We could not identify him with any physical features. The only thing we noticed was his left shoe, which had not burnt completely,” Aubrey told TimesLIVE.
About six weeks after the gruesome discovery of the torched body, police arrested Eugene Roberts, 44, known to the family as Mziza’s landlord.
A motive being investigated in connection with the murder involved the trucking business.
The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) has subsequently identified Mduduzi Mike Mpotsane, 35, Ronald Halmes, 44, and Jean Pierre Halmes, 27, as additional suspects. Mpotsane has not been charged for murder
The four appeared at the Daveyton regional court on Wednesday, where their case was postponed until August 25 for a bail application, said NPA spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana.
“Mpotsane appeared on charges of theft, while the two Halmes brothers and Roberts appeared on counts of murder and defeating the ends of justice. Roberts and Mpotsane abandoned their bail application,” said Mahajana.
We have not told the children what happened. We don’t know how to.Aubrey Mziza
While two of the suspects will be going ahead with formal bail requests, Mziza’s family said they hoped justice would be served.
“We want the law to take its course. Tony was a good man and certainly did not have to die such a painful death. Justice for us would be nothing short of a life sentence.
“As much as this has hit us hard, as a family we believe Tony was the sacrificial lamb to uncover such cruel deaths as we have seen with the two bodies,” he said.
TimesLIVE this week visited the plot where Mziza was murdered. The area is metres away from an estate which allows visitors only by appointment. A dusty road leads to the highly secured plot, where CCTV cameras can be seen. The plot has high walls, an electric fence and a large green gate. A look inside revealed several trucks and machinery.
A neighbour said she was shocked by the murder. “It’s heartbreaking. I have never seen anything out of the ordinary, except police vans recently. We did not pay much attention, we assumed it was a break-in because we also had one, two weeks ago,” she said.
Asked if she feared for her safety, she responded: “I have told myself that whatever happens, God is there.”
Mziza's family is yet to come to terms with his loss. Among those hardest hit is his 72-year-old father, who has a chronic health condition, and Mziza's five children.
“We have not told the children what happened. We don’t know how to. They are always asking about their father and when he’ll come back home,” said Aubrey.
Three months after Mziza's body was discovered, the family has not been able to bury him as the body is still a subject of the investigation.