The Khayelitsha house allegedly belonging to the man accused of raping and murdering university student Uyinene Mrwetyana was set alight on Tuesday night.
Angry community members took to the house, located in I-Section, to protest and demand a harsh sentence for the 42-year-old, who allegedly confessed to his crime in court on Monday.
Mrwetyana was raped and bludgeoned to death with a scale inside a Cape Town post office at the weekend. The court ordered on Monday that the man cannot be named as an identity parade has not yet been carried out.
Police spokesperson Lt-Col Andrè Traut confirmed the blaze.
“This office can confirm that a house in I-Section Khayelitsha was set alight by community members this evening [Tuesday]. The owner of the property cannot be identified. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under police investigation and the suspects are yet to be arrested,” said Traut.
But Khayelitsha Ward 94 councillor Patrick Mngxunyeni told TimesLIVE that residents demanded a meeting after they saw the police’s forensic unit “digging” in the accused’s yard on Monday.
The decision to burn down the accused’s house was taken at a community meeting earlier on Tuesday.
“Neighbours called me about what was happening. They suspected this had to do with Uyinene’s murder and demanded that I address the community,” he said.
Mngxunyeni said he first held a meeting on Monday with SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) leadership in the area who wanted answers.
On Tuesday, as word spread that the suspect lived on the property, more community members demanded that a community meeting be held and that community leaders address them.
A general meeting of the community was convened at 6pm, he said.
“At the meeting, the residents said the ANC government is failing us and that women are dying like flies. They said we are not going to fold our arms, we are going to that house.”
Mngxunyeni said he pleaded in vain for people to abandon that idea, saying: “Let’s allow the law to take its course.”
But he said angry residents would not listen and that he felt unsafe, so he left the meeting. He received a call from police at around 7.40pm informing him that a house was on fire.
A resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the protest was to say “enough is enough”.
“The people are angry. Yes he was arrested, but we’re not sure for how long. We want to set an example of him that rapists and murders are not welcome in our society,” she told TimesLIVE.
Police could not confirm if anybody was inside the house, but the resident was certain it was empty.
“There was no one [inside]. We know him very well. His wife had already left him. Enough is enough; we are tired as women,” she said.
Police said officers had been deployed to the area to maintain law and order and to quell any further violence.
According to Jermaine Carelse of the City of Cape Town’s fire and rescue services, teams were called out to the house fire – but had to leave when they were threatened.
“Upon arrival at the incident, a volatile crowd prevented the service from performing their function. The officer and crew feared for their lives and left the area. As for who the owner of the dwelling is at this stage is unknown,” said Carelse.