Meet hijacker’s father: Dumi

Family legend has it that juvenile-offender-turned-serial hijacker, Vuyani “Vivi” Mthembu, nicknamed Schumacher byschool mates, was driving cars at the age of nine.

After he was killed, the exact age he first drove a car – not just fiddled around with the steering wheel and gear stick – became a subject of family debate.

Vivi’s father, a part-time mechanic, part-time car thief, nicknamed Dumi, could probably have cleared up the issue. But he was also dead.

Dumi used two surnames in his lifetime – Mbikwane and Mthembu – and sired 39 children through various common law wives and lovers.

When we visited the Mthembu’s Clermont home, an old, rusted, wrecked car stood outside the front door. The eldest son,  Thulani, 33, and a father of nine kids, said his father had been fixing this car – salvaged from an accident ­– the week he was shot outside a nearby tavern.

The exact date this happened, neither Thulani nor his sister, Vuyisile, 22, can recall.

But it was late October 2009, they say. At the time Vivi was still in jail for the murder of 14-year-old William Hammond.

“Up there by that Sunsilk sign, that’s where my father was shot,” said Thulani, standing next to the old car wreck, pointing to the location of a tavern about 200m up the street from the family yard. Dumi died later in hospital.

“It was still light, but nobody saw who shot him. When the gun fired, people ran. When they hear a gunshot, they always run, and say nothing, so no one was ever arrested,” said Thulani.

Vuyisile reckoned the killer could have been a jealous husband or lover.

“I think it was a personal grudge more than anything else,” said Vuyisile.

But Sergeant Lindani Venter Mhlongo, who was on first name terms with the Mthembus’ father, believed otherwise.

He also said the family’s description of their father as a car mechanic, was a half truth.

“I arrested Dumi many times. He got retrenched or fired from Rainbow Chickens. He did fix cars, but he also stole them,” said Mhlongo.

“What happened was this. There was this laaitjie who Dumi once stole a car with. Dumi never shared the money with this laaitjie, so the laaitjie shot him,” said Mhlongo.

“What I can say, though, is that he really was a good man at heart. He did not want to see his kids follow him. I remember that he wanted them to be educated,” said Mhlongo.

“The way I look at it is that Vivi knew what his father did, the way he had made his money, and thought: ‘This is very easy’ and he made his decision about how he wanted to become successful.”

At the Pinetown magistrate’s court, an official confirmed that Mbikwane had also spent time in jail for car thefts.

“Yes, I remember Dumi was also signing here,” said one official, referring to parole and bail procedures. “Now you tell me he’s dead, and Vivi too! Hawu!” he exclaimed.

When we visited the Mthembu’s family home where Vivi grew up, it was a communal residence of sorts occupied mostly by youths who clearly do not like answering knocks on the front door.

In the yard there was a typical makeshift sign often seen in townships: AFFORDABLE TRADERS FOR ALL YOUR ELECTRICAL WELDING NEEDS. WE REPAIR STOVE, OVEN.

Thulani, now responsible for a growing brood of his own nine children from eight mothers, said he eked out a living from these part time jobs.

It was into this home that prison authorities released Mthembu after assessing his suitability for parole.

Jobless, and in terms of his parole conditions, he was required to remain on family property from Monday to Thursday, with time for shopping on Saturday and going to Church on Sundays. (The parole conditions did not mention Friday). Mthembu clearly did not adhere to any of his parole conditions, returning to the only trade he knew – hijacking cars.

On our last visit to the Mthembu’s Clermont home, we found that the old, rusted wreck of car that had stood outside the front door ever since Dumisane Mbikwane’s murder late 2009, was gone. Thulani later told us that it had been stolen, that someone had arrived with a tow-truck, taken it and sold it to nearby scrap dealer –  “probably for about R250”, he said.