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Elvis Nyathi’s family reflects on recent events and what Africa month means

Mizikayifani Nyathi has a picture of his brother, Elvis Nyathi as a screensaver on his phone. Picture: Supplied

By Lerato Ngwenya

The month of May marks Africa month, a period dedicated to celebrating the continent's unique identity, culture, traditions, offerings, and music. It is also a month dedicated to building a sense of unity and oneness among Africans. But for many African migrants living in South Africa, there is very little to celebrate. Recurring xenophobic attacks and threats make it practically and psychologically impossible for them to build their lives in this country.

Fray News spoke to the family of Elvis Nyathi, the Zimbabwean national who was burned to death by a mob targeting foreign nationals in Diepsloot township north of Johannesburg about the events of that fateful day and being an African in Africa.

Nomsa Tshuma (38), lost her husband, Mbodazwe Banajo Nyathi, affectionately known as Elvis, on April 7, 2022, when a group of men came asking people to show them their ID cards.

“We heard them next door asking ‘for ID cards, or passport ’. My husband didn’t have any documents, so he tried to hide in fear under the table that my kids would use as a study desk. But they found him,” says Tshuma softly.

Tshuma, who is also a Zimbabwean, said an angry mob of about 30 people demanded R300 from her. “They didn’t say what the money was for."

She handed over her last R50. Unhappy with that amount, the mob dragged Nyathi away. Fearing for her life, Tshuma remained in the shack and started phoning Nyathi’s relatives.

Minutes later, Tshuma's neighbor came rushing back to her telling her that her husband had been set alight in the street outside, not far away from their shack.

She said living in South Africa has brought her nothing but pain. “We came here (South Africa) to look for a better living, not bury my husband.” She said before the incident, her husband worked as a car mechanic and she did laundry for families in Honeydew.

Tshuma said their sin was being poor Zimbabweans who are trying to provide for their children.

“I don’t know what you mean by celebrating Africa month” how do we call each other Africans when we are being killed by the same people with the same skin color as ours?”

Nyathi’s younger brother, Mizikayifani Nyathi (34), is an Uber driver who moved out of Diepsloot in February for safety reasons and encouraged his brother to do the same. “I kept telling him they must leave.”

“I received a call from my cousin, informing me that my brother was being beaten by a group of men. I drove straight to Dieplsoot police station and asked them to escort me,” he says. “They told me at the police station my brother was burned but he is still alive. But when I got there, he was already dead."

The family has arranged for Tshuma and her four sons to relocate back to Zimbabwe, in the meantime, Tshuma and her sons are living with her brother-in-law and his wife in their rented home in Bramley. “I have no choice but to protect them I am their only hope says,” Nyathi.

Seven men were arrested for Nyathi's murder and charged with murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, robbery with aggravating circumstances, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, and extortion. They appeared in the Randburg Magistrates Court on Friday and were granted bail of R3000 each.


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