'Junior and Peaceful were very young, why?'

Community gives murdered toddlers dignified sendoff

Suspect who pointed out shallow graves of missing toddlers recovering under police guard in hospital

Mandla Khoza Freelance journalist
The coffins of Junior Mabandla,6, and Peaceful Khoza being taken for burial on Tuesday.
The coffins of Junior Mabandla,6, and Peaceful Khoza being taken for burial on Tuesday.
Image: Mandla Khoza

“They were very young, why?”

These are words on some of the placards held by grade 1 pupils as they bade farewell to their schoolmate Junior Mabandla.

Junior, 6, and three-year-old Peaceful Khoza were buried on Tuesday, just days after their bodies were exhumed from shallow graves in different areas in Pienaar, outside Mbombela, in Mpumalanga, last week.

Junior had been missing since June 3 while Peaceful disappeared on Wednesday.

Both graves were pointed out by Siviwe Thulare, 18, who is best friends with Peaceful's father, her family said.

Provincial police on Tuesday said Thulare was still recovering in hospital after he was beaten up by the community last week.

At the children's funeral, hundreds of community members, different political parties and schoolchildren gathered to say their last goodbyes.

Peaceful’s aunt, Khethiwe Khoza, said she was hurt by how her niece was killed. The little girl was found partially burnt. Khoza said her niece was a bubbly child. 

“She loved me so much and that's why her mother left her with me the day she was taken. I'm very hurt. I can't find peace regarding her death and the way she died. [It was in] the hands of someone we trusted at home. I wish the police could lock him [Thulare] up and he must die in jail for he took our precious Peaceful from us,” said Khoza. 

Junior's grandfather, Lucky Nkosi, told Sowetan that what pains him more is how they found Junior after a month of searching for him, only to find him as another family was looking for Peaceful. 

“How he was found brings more trauma to us,” said Nkosi. 

Police spokesperson Capt Magoseni Nkosi said they were investigating two counts of murder and concealment of death. 

“The suspect is still under police guard in hospital.”

The children were buried at Rocky Drift cemetery, outside White River town.

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