Mthwakazi.This is the heartwrenching tale of undoda lowana owatshiswa ephila.mina ngisalute the journalist owahamba out of his way ukuze undoda lowu athole a descent burial.
kubuhlungu, kudabukisa inhliziyo.
________________________________________________________________The burning man became a grim symbol of SA's xenophobia.
Published:Jun 08, 2008
Burnt alive: Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave, 35
'He died in Johannesburg while working there. Please accept his spirit. Let it rest in peace'
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This week, Charles Molele and Simphiwe Nkwali, the photographer who documented his death, attended his funeral.
Read the Special Report on xenophobia
Singing hymns, mourners walked barefoot in single file to the final resting place of Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave.
Last Sunday, two weeks after the 35-year-old father of three was burnt alive on the streets of Ramaphosa informal settlement during violent anti-foreigner attacks, he was finally home.
His uncle, Noah Nhamuave, performed the traditional ciTswa funerary ritual under the tambeira tree, praying for Ernesto's salvation, as he scattered a mixture of peanuts, maize meal and beans in front of about 50 wailing women.
"It is with a heavy heart that I ask you, my ancestors, from all our family trees, to accept your son, Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave," intoned the uncle.
"He died in Johannesburg while working there. Please accept his spirit. Let it rest in peace."
This was done to prevent Nhamuave's spirit from turning malicious on the living.
The ciTswa tribe say these rites have the power of liberating a dead man's soul from wandering around the earth filled with hatred and seeking revenge after being subjected to such a horrible death.
As his coffin descended into the shallow grave, Sunday Times photographer Simphiwe Nkwali and Independent Newspapers photographer Shayne Robinson, who took pictures of Nhamuave being burnt in Ramaphosa, took shovels and joined local men to bury the subject of their photographs.
It had taken the Sunday Times team 22 hours to make the roller-coaster journey home with Nhamuave to Vuca village in Mozambique.
The journey began at the corner of Jeppe and Nugget streets, where his family had arranged for the transport of the corpse with the aid of the Mozambican High Commission in South Africa.
Nhamuave, together with two other victims of the xenophobic attacks, Gerad Mathe and Octavia Sithole, were among the first victims to be repatriated to Mozambique.
The adrenaline pumped as we drove towards Maputo, where we paused before pressing on as the sun went down.
Then it was off to faraway Inhambane, where the roads are a real nightmare.
This is where vehicles frequently break down, overheat or get punctures as they struggle along potholed tarred roads and through sandy wastes.
Halfway through, the undertaker's car broke down. We were still 400km away from Nhamuave's home. We helped repair the car but after 100km it broke down again.
We then loaded the body into our rented 4x4 bakkie and continued our journey with two family members, ANC Ekurhuleni regional-leader-cum-undertaker Sammy Leshabane and a member of the Mozambican disaster management team, Elias Honwana.
As they told stories, I gunned the diesel engine and sped off through blinding mist and navigated the biggest potholes in the world while Nhamuave's body bounced in the back of the bakkie.
Along the way, David Mahlanga, a cousin of Mathe, an 18-year-old victim we off-loaded on our way to Inhambane, regaled us with stories about lazy, insolent and "uneducated" South Africans. He was one of those types who become more articulate and animated with every drink he was offered.
When the alcohol ran out, he fell asleep.
We arrived at our destination shortly after 4am on Monday, just in time for the funeral, scheduled for 7am.
Nhamuave's home is in one of the most remote parts of Mozambique. It is a place where Frelimo used to carry out hit-and-run raids against the Portuguese and Alfonso Dhlakama's ragtag rebel force, Renamo, planting mines and holding nocturnal political education sessions with peasants in villages scattered around Inhambane.
Nhamuave was slightly built, benign and slow of speech. He maintained an air of detached amusement even in the most difficult of situations, according to villagers I spoke to.
He was known as o confidente because people confided in him and asked for his valuable advice.
A God-fearing man, he was a lay preacher at the local branch of the Zion United Christian Apostolic Church in Mozambique.
At school he was often distracted, and dropped out in Std 6.
He enjoyed the bush and was an exceptionally good hunter. He used a bow and arrow to hunt rabbits, warthogs and waterbuck. Sometimes he used dogs. Because he was good with his hands, he trained as a builder. His family's reed-and-thatch homestead was built by him.
His brother Jos? told me after the funeral that the whole village, officials of Frelimo and his wife were traumatised by the way he died.
"Everybody is asking, why couldn't they just tell him to leave rather than burn him? We are all Africans," said Jos?.
"The reason we migrate to South Africa is to find jobs because there are few corporations or factories where we can work."
Nhamuave's fellow church worshipper Alberto Meles Zawali said his friend had been a peaceful person even, though he did not suffer fools gladly.
"He would not harm a fly," said Zawali. "He cared for his family. That's why he went to South Africa."
Nhamuave's 30-year-old wife was too heartbroken to speak to us.
When I first saw pictures of him burnt alive in broad daylight, I felt sick.
We did not know his name. He was just a statistic, a faceless victim of a horrific "necklace" killing at the height of the pogroms.
Had it not been for our quest to find out the man's identity, "the man in flames" would in all probability have been buried in a pauper's grave.
We tracked down his relatives at the OR Tambo Memorial Hospital in Benoni, and later helped to identify his charred body at the mortuary.
His brother-in-law Francesco Armando Kanze positively identified him as Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave.
He said the burnt man was married to his sister, Hortencia, and was a father of three children: Alfabeto, 12, Juneriso, 8, and Virginia, 4.
As for thousands before him, poverty made Nhamuave undertake the journey to the proverbial City of Gold to find a job so he could support his family and send his children to school.
When he arrived in February this year he worked at a construction site as a builder and shared a shack. Media reports say he slept on a borrowed mattress and owned little but a duvet, a few clothes and a picture book entitled Karoo Blossoms.
Three months later, his dream of earning a living turned into a nightmare when foreigners were told to go home because they were taking jobs and government houses that belonged to locals.
After this chilling anti-immigrant call, it is understood that neighbours advised Nhamuave and his brother-in-law to leave immediately, before the outbreak of the violent pogroms.
But they decided to wait for the right moment before making the journey home.
On Sunday, May 18, they tried to sneak out but they were cornered by a rampaging mob who stabbed, kicked and knocked Kanze unconscious. He pretended to be dead.
His attackers then went after Nhamuave. While Kanze lay " dead", his brother-in-law was bludgeoned to his knees as he succumbed to the blows.
One of the killers took a blazing log from a nearby bonfire and doused him with petrol (some say it was paraffin).
As he burst into flames, some of the thugs spread his clothes and a mattress over him so that the fire would spread faster.
The photographers clicked away at Nhamuave while local bystanders laughed at the kwerekwere.
After helping the family with the identification and transport of their son, my colleague Nkwali seemed emotionally wounded by those who were critical of his personal involvement in the story.
"I did all I did because I was sick and tired at the way people are not given proper dignity in the media," he said.
With the dignified burial of Nhamuave, Nkwali has achieved a measure of inner peace; and so, hopefully, has Nhamuave himself.