A memorial service will be held at the Hillbrow Theatre on Thursday afternoon for a Zimbabwean immigrant who was killed by a vigilante group in Diepsloot, northern Johannesburg.
The family of Elvis Banajo Mbodazwe Nyathi, 43, will then transport his remains to Bulawayo in Zimbabwe on Friday and finally to his rural home in the Matobo District in Matabeleland South province for burial.
In a statement, the Nyathi family said they were inviting everyone who knew the deceased father of four or wanted to show solidarity to the memorial service.
His cousin and family spokesperson, Mphathisi Ndlovu, thanked the public for helping the family to raise funds for the repatriation of the body back to Zimbabwe.
However, he warned that some people were taking advantage of the situation by collecting money for their personal gain.
“We have been receiving messages about people fundraising in the name of our son. We didn’t ask for what we are facing. We are in our darkest hour. People should verify the accounts they are sending money to and also desist from making a mockery of an unfortunate situation,” he said.
Nyathi was reportedly watching television at home with his wife after returning from work when a group of residents ran through his neighbourhood, chasing after a group of people, knocking on doors and demanding to see IDs. The group allegedly caught Nyathi, who had tried to flee after he heard the thugs demanding to see everyone’s passport, then tied him up, assaulted him and burnt him to ashes.
“The family has been traumatised. I don’t know what it will take for them to accept the new reality that the breadwinner is gone and that he went most brutally, worse captured on video. We can’t stomach it. It’s going to be a lifetime reminder of pain to his children,” said a family member on condition of anonymity.
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It has taken long for the body to be cleared by consular affairs in South Africa because he was an undocumented immigrant, Ndlovu said.
Back in Zimbabwe, Nyathi’s death became a political issue as the ruling party Zanu PF, where the party and the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) exchanged harsh words.
Zanu PF accused CCC of working with “right-wing racist circles to patent xenophobic criminality with extraneous political garbage”.
CCC leader Nelson Chamisa had earlier said that Nyathi was a victim of Zimbabwe’s economic and political failure.
“The brutal killing of Nyathi reminds us yet again of the need to resolve the human-made governance and leadership crisis in Zimbabwe. Many wouldn’t have to risk their lives in a hostile environment if Zimbabwe was working. Help to resolve the crisis, to fix the migration challenge,” he said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Christopher Mutsvangwa said they had “engaged” their “sister party” the ANC over the matter.
“Zanu PF continues to engage the South African authorities through diplomatic and other channels so that due safeguards and protections are accorded to all who may find themselves in South Africa in accordance with international law and humane norms,” he said.
Zimbabwean poet Desire Moyo said: “Those that are quiet, who is going to speak when you die? Men of God, presidents of nations, tribes, and tribesmen… I am Elvis and we are many.”
Meanwhile, the Hanns Seidel Foundation, together with the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), Institute for the Future of Knowledge and the University of Johannesburg, on Tuesday hosted a webinar titled “How to extinguish South Africa’s flames of xenophobia”.
During the seminar, it was noted that groups such as Operation Dudula, which is believed to have inspired the killing of Nyathi, were based on myths about foreign nationals and anti-migrant attitudes.
It was suggested that an all-stakeholders approach incorporating civil society and government should address the simmering tensions in areas such as Diepsloot to avoid a situation similar to the xenophobic attacks of 2008.
Elvis was employed as a gardener in Fourways, Johannesburg.