From doting dad to monster: how the family of Durban man who killed 4 kids is moving forward

He was a quiet man who didn’t drink or smoke and barely raised his voice. In fact, his wife thought of him as the answer to her prayers. The perfect husband and a doting dad, she believed him to be. Until he turned into a monster.

And when she filed for divorce, he took the worst form of revenge possible: he killed all four of her children. Xolisile Dladla Mpungose (39) is devastated about the death of her kids, Ayakha Jiyane (16), Siphosethu Mpungose (10), Khwezi Mpungose (6) and Kuhlekonke Mpungose (4). The three youngest were his kids and Ayakha was his stepdaughter. She’s “emotionally exhausted”, the children’s mother tells us while sitting on a mattress in her Wyebank, Durban house.

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Four candles burn bright in the room and she’s surrounded by family and friends who are still in shock. They still can’t believe the kids are all gone. Their father, a general worker at a factory in Pinetown, was arrested in Sub 5 KwaDabeka in Clermont, west of Durban. He’s to be charged with four counts of murder, according to provincial police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele According to various reports, he was allegedly trying to kill himself when he was arrested.

A DAY OF HORROR

Xolisile’s cousin, Nonkanyiso Mlaba, says the children normally used a school bus to and from school, but on that day “he personally fetched them from school”. He then sent Siphosethu twice to buy chips from a local spaza shop. “This must have given him enough time to hang and kill Khwezi and Kuhlekonke. Siphosethu was later hanged in another room,” she explains.

“He later fetched Ayakha from Pinetown Girls’ High School. We believe that he used a meter taxi to fetch her because he left the car at home. He took her to some bushes in New Germany, just outside Pinetown where he allegedly killed her. He then phoned one of our cousins who lives in Johannesburg and informed her that he’d left Ayakha in the bushes.”

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They rushed to the bushes and started shouting for Ayakha, hoping for a response. “We were about to give up when we found her school blazer. A few metres away was her schoolbag and next to it was her body, lying face down. A pink belt was hanging from her neck and she had blood in her mouth.”

She said it looked like Ayakha tried to hide from her stepfather, but he had already seen her. “I guess she knew something bad was about to happen,” Nonkanyiso says sadly.

THE ‘MONSTER’

Xoli and her husband were in the process of separating and getting a divorce, Nonkanyiso says. “We don’t know what led to that. We had no idea they were having problems.” All Xolisile wanted was a man who would adore her children and he became that man.

“He raised Ayakha from the age of six as if she was his child. At family functions he’d spend most of his time with his children.” Xoli’s younger sister, Lwazi Mlawuzi (25), says they last saw Ayakha in July. “One of my nieces had a birthday and she’d come to celebrate with us. Everything seemed normal and that was the last time we saw her,” she says.

She described Ayakha as the most intelligent child. “She had a bright future ahead of her. She was doing Grade 11, but she had already secured a scholarship from one of the companies to study medicine or accounting in any of the universities. She had a good heart, very respectful and humble. She wore a smile all the time.”

The husband was a very quiet person. “We are still shocked at the news. What makes us even more confused is that he doesn’t smoke and he doesn’t drink. At all times we congratulated Xoli for choosing a good husband.” “We don’t know what changed him into a monster, we are left with many unanswered questions. We are happy he is behind bars. We also hope he does not get bail. We want a life sentence [for him],” she says.

THE PERFECT COUPLE

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one of Xolisile’s friends says Xoli and the alleged murderer were a perfect couple. “I’ve known them for 10 years and they were always happy together. I still can’t believe he killed his children because he loved them so much. In my eyes he is incapable of doing this because he is gentleman, very humble.” But in the same breath she says Xoli was in the process of leaving him.

“I am not sure what led to their separation, but I know that he was supposed to move out of the house by Monday [2 September] but he didn’t. Instead he had decided to move out on a Tuesday. “On the day of the incident [Tuesday 3 September] he phoned Xoli wanting to know her whereabouts. I heard him asking Xoli if she was still at work. He said he wanted to see her one more time before leaving the house. We didn’t think much of it,” she says.

Another friend says Xolisile lived for her children. “I am not sure if she will recover from this. It’s hard to tell what went wrong because they loved each other, everybody envied their love. “When he was unemployed Xoli took care of everything. She is the one paying the bond. She sent their children to the best schools in the area, she’d allow him to drive her car. She even managed to get a job for him.”

She says Xoli had just been promoted to a head of department position at school, and “she wanted to see her children grow”. Social worker Ndileka Macabela says separation or divorce is usually the last sign of a troubled marriage.

“It can’t be true that there were no signs before the killings. This is a typical case of domestic violence and, in many instances, it goes unnoticed. A couple may pretend to be perfect and happily in love, but behind closed doors there is a lot of fighting. Hence we are shocked when we see such incidents.”