“No worries,” says Samir when Thando gives him the R3.50 at the spaza. “Your sister always pays. I give you airtime.”

“Thanks, Samir,” Thando says, ripping open the voucher.

His calls to Zikhona’s cellphone go straight to voicemail. Thando walks along NO Paradise Road, looking down at his phone. He does not notice the throngs of people running in the opposite direction, because he is typing a message to Zikhona. When he eventually looks up, he is surprised by all the concerned faces running past him. Maybe they are running to gawk at a car accident, he thinks.

Soon the road is unusually empty. He calls Zikhona. Still voicemail. He is looking down at his cellphone, typing another message to Zikhona, when he overhears a woman talking loudly on her cellphone. She is heavy set and breathing rapidly.

“Do you know if the body they found at Monwabisi Beach is male or female? Is it not my Stella?” the woman shouts, close to tears.

Thando does not know when it is that he decides to turn and follow the concerned, chubby woman. The same feeling of unease he felt when he watched Zikhona leave last night overwhelms him now. He is not aware that he now runs faster than everyone else. He dashes past Nandi and her crew.

Nandi takes one look at Thando’s worried face. “Thando!” Nandi shouts. “Thando what is wrong?” She takes off after him.

Nandi only catches up to her brother when they reach a large crowd gathered at Monwabisi Beach. The whole neighbourhood is here but people speak in hushed tones. Thando will not remember the exact point he took Nandi by the hand, but brother and sister push through the crowd, hand in hand.

They squirm through until they get to the front. They are met by the glow of blue lights and yellow police tape blowing in the wind. The police are digging in the sand in the middle of this crime scene. An officer raises a red handbag.

“No! No! No!” screams Nandi. “That’s Zikhona’s bag. God no!”

Brother and sister tear through the yellow police tape. They are both tiny in stature but knock down the two policemen trying to hold them back. In the shallow grave the female body lies face down. Thando and Nandi don’t need the corpse to be turned to know that this is their sister Zikhona.

There is a collective gasp from the crowd as Nandi lets out a shrill scream and collapses.

“Do you know who this is?” a policeman asks Thando.

Thando nods; tears stream down his face. His heart breaks looking at the gruesome injuries on Zikhona’s beautiful face. Her face is frozen in the struggle of the strangulation that took her last breath.

In Thando’s mind the same question rings nonstop: How can a sweet soul like Zikhona meet such a cruel end?


Tell us: Did you expect this shocking twist in the story? Why might Zikhona have been murdered?