Tale of Two Hijackers

Tale of Two Hijackers

From a fight over a bicycle to body bags – this is the story of Vuyani ‘Vivi’ Mthembu and his childhood partner in crime, S’phelele Shezi. 

Vuyani “Vivi” Mthembu carried an okapi (knife) at primary school.
At the age of 14, he committed murder, killing 14-year-old William Hammond.
On trial for this murder, he became a schoolboy hijacker.
In prison he earned the title Mhlonishwa (Sir)
On his release on early parole he ran a hijacking syndicate.
Strangely, prison authorities claimed he was abiding 100% by his parole conditions.
On January 6, 2011, he was shot dead by the police alongside his childhood partner in crime and accomplice in the Hammond murder, Sphelele Shezi.
The killing of Mthembu and Shezi, aged 23 and 19, made the front page of the Daily News.
When Roving Reporters presented a class of final year journalism students at the Durban University of Technology with this story, little did they know that some of them would soon visit the Mthembu home in Clermont where the two hijackers grew up, also later speaking to police at the scene of the stake out where they were finally killed.
In this website package, we present for the first time the epic journey that the students embarked on, providing insight not only into the lives of these two boys-turned-serial-hijackers, but also some of the realities of police work never told before.
We find out what led to the tragic attempt to steal a bicycle on October 2, 2002 and meet 21-year-old Derek Meldrun who witnessed his friend drop dead on the spot.
We hear from the magistrate who presided over the boys’ trial – a case she described as the saddest she had ever encountered.
We question the Department of Correctional Services about their juvenile offenders rehabilitation programmes and parole procedures for convicted murderers. We learn that no effective monitoring of the juvenile offenders took place while on trial, and also how, once released from prison, Mthembu blatantly flouted his parole conditions.
We find out about Mthembu’s father – a man who had two surnames, a string of lovers and 39 children – and hear conflicting accounts of who gunned him down while his son was in prison for Hammond’s murder.
And we take you into the mind of a former “transporter” – someone who takes stolen cars to specific destinations – and learn that the hijacking is like a game for many township schoolboys.
We also learn about the two dead hijackers’ schoolgirl sweethearts, Thandeka and Nonhlanhla, who became the primary caregivers of the dead hijackers’ two babies. Mthembu’s last child, born soon after his death was Christened: Uzanokukhanya – the one that brings light.

  • This series of stories was produced with the support of the Taco Kuiper Trust in partnership with Roving Reporters and students from the Durban University of Technology. The students who worked on this case study were Joel Burton, Sabelo Nsele, Sandile Gumede and Thabile Mbekwa. They were supervised on fieldwork assignments by Roving Reporters director, Fred Kockott.

An abridged version of this series was originally published by the Daily News.

 FEATURED GRAPHIC: Compliments of Daily News

Broken link in justice chain

CONVICTED murderer, Vuyani “Vivi” Mthembu, 23, was released on early parole late 2010. He became the leader of a Durban hijacking syndicate within weeks of walking out of Westville prison. The Department of Correctional Services (DCS) claimed that Mthembu had been “complying 100 percent with his parole conditions”, including that he stay at his family’s home in Clermont from Monday to Thursday, with free hours for shopping on Saturday and attending church on Sunday. They did not say what Mthembu’s parole conditions were on Fridays. Read more . . .

Death on a grassy patch

It was on October 2 2002 that William Hammond, 14, was murdered in a fight over a bicycle. It took place on a grassy patch on the roadside near the traffic circle opposite the New Germany Sports Club, Pinetown, Durban. Read more . . . 

His fate was predicted

The people of Clermont – a lively and bustling Durban township to some, a gansters’ den to others – reckoned Vuyani “Vivi” Mthembu would not see in 2011 and his second child being born. Mthembu was on the run from police, wanted for a series of hijackings he had committed alongside his childhood partner in crime, SpheleleShezi, 19 – his accomplice in the William Hammond murder. Read more . . . 

Meet hijacker’s father: Dumi

Family legend has it that juvenile-offender-turned-serial hijacker, Vuyani “Vivi” Mthembu, nicknamed Schumacher by school 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. Read more . . . 


Imagine you are a cop, and your wife and child have been threatened by a young man suspected of serial hijackings. This was the situation that Sergeant Lindani Venter Mhlongo said he faced in tracking down the two hijackers, Vivi Mthembu, 23, and Sphelele Shezi, 19. Read more . . . 

Conflicting and sketchy accounts of hijackers’ crime sprees

Conflicting and sketchy police accounts of the hijackings and associated crimes committed by Vivi Mthembu, 23, and Sphelele Shezi, 19, indicate that the police might have not been in touch with what was actually going on out there. Read more . . . 


He takes his gun with him to fetch the newspaper every morning.
He has it beside him when he takes a bath in the evening.
He practises at a police shooting range at least once a week.
He calls his .38 special, his wife.
Meet sharp-shooter and police reservist, Constable Grant Ngubane. Read more . . . 


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