In April 2018, Lukas Ntshabeleng went missing.
A month later, his body was found in a cave near Pretoria.
Seventeen months later, and his family still doesn’t know how he died or whether someone was responsible for his death.
In May, last year the news broke that three bodies had been found in a cave near Vlakplaas, West of Pretoria. During the time they visited the cave, a man, who proclaimed to be a prophet was living there.
A deeper look at the story, revealed that the three men, including Ntshabeleng were members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) church and may have visited the cave to pray.
It was not uncommon over the years for people to visit the cave for this reason, but no one ever stayed.
Not until an unknown man, only identified as the prophet, decided to expropriate the cave as his own holy ground.
Several people who met the prophet described him as aggressive and threatening. A man who frequented the cave since 2012 and called himself Abraham, recounted how the prophet prayed for the power to kill his family.
It’s believed the prophet left the cave shortly before the bodies were discovered and that he has never returned.
We are not healed
Following rumours, Ntshabeleng’s sister, Rose Ramaano, who went on an emotional journey to find her brother after he disappeared, eventually found the cave where she met the prophet.
She visited the cave entrance in early May with police, but never entered the area where, she now knows, her brother laid dead.
After Ntshabeleng’s body was discovered, Ramaano identified it but to this day, police have still not told her how her brother died.
“I cry every day. No one is answering me, no one is helping me,” Ramaano told News24 on Wednesday.
“I have no idea about how my brother died, his last hours and movements,” she said, adding that the family has not found closure.
“How can a person be killed and nothing happens?”
Ramaano added that police were also silent about the whereabouts of the prophet, the last person who was in the cave just before the bodies were discovered.
Ramaano told News24 that she consistently calls the police for updates but gets nowhere. She also has no idea if the post-mortem report was ever finalised.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters told News24 on Thursday that the post-mortem report was not out yet and that no arrests have been made.
She added that all three bodies have since been identified and that investigations are continuing.
The search for Ntshabeleng started after he failed to return home on April 27, 2018.
The family initially assumed that he attended an all-night prayer the night before, which was not unusual for him as a devout follower of the ZCC.
After that weekend, there was still no sign of Ntshabeleng, and calls to his phone went straight to voicemail. His family began to panic.
He also seldom missed a day’s work. Mindful of this, Ramaano tried to establish his whereabouts.
Ramaano first started searching for her brother at churches, mortuaries, hospitals and police stations, which proved unsuccessful.
Knowing that Zionists often go to the mountains to pray, she also scoured the area around Lotus Gardens, east of Pretoria, thinking that he may have collapsed there and was perhaps stranded.
Desperate, and with no success, she then followed up on a rumour she had heard about two bodies which had been found outside a cave near Erasmia, about 15km from his home.
She said she thought at the time that one of the bodies might be that of her brother.
She went to the Atteridgeville police station to ask for an escort to the cave. She was turned away and asked to return at a later stage. When she did, she and her brothers, along with police, set out to find the cave in the first week of May, 2018.
Meeting the prophet
When they arrived, Ramaano’s brothers climbed to reach the entrance of the cave. She was told to stay at the bottom for her own safety. They called out Ntshabeleng’s name.
“Then a young boy’s voice emerged from the cave and they asked him: ‘What are you doing in here?’ And he responded, saying: ‘I live inside the cave. I’ve been living in this cave for three months,'” Ramaano claimed.
He apparently told them that he was from Zimbabwe and that he had been called to the cave by his ancestors to become a sangoma. He also claimed to be a prophet.
They asked if he had seen Ntshabeleng or anyone else enter the cave, and he said no.
The “prophet” told the police that he had been living there since January.
“The police asked him if they could enter and he responded, saying if they believed they were strong enough and if they had prayed, they could enter. Then the police took a step back and left,” Ramaano claimed.
The discovery of the bodies
Two of the bodies were discovered by the owner of the property where the cave is situated, while the third was discovered by a search and rescue team after the police were notified about the gruesome find.
The owner said she had been monitoring the prophet after he moved into the cave and sometime in May, she realised that he had stopped lighting fires, chanting and singing as he did every evening, so she decided to check if he moved out.
Crawling into the second cavern of the cave, the owner wanted to assess what damage the prophet may have done. On her way into the third cavern, she saw what looked like rubbish, as she moved closer, she realised it was two badly decomposed bodies.
Partially clothed and dressed in ZCC regalia, one body was found lying face up, holding a knobkerrie in one hand and a stick in the other, while the other body was huddled over.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said both bodies had been dressed in ZCC hats, while one had a ZCC star pinned to his chest. Their socks and shoes had been removed.
The third body was discovered by the police in the third cavern, almost hidden away on May 21.