A day after South Africa embarked on 16 Days of Activism to protest violence against women and children, a mother and her five children were found murdered in their home in the Eastern Cape province.

Police in the Eastern Cape have expressed shock at the killing of the family.

Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana, police spokesperson said police were called to the scene after neighbours’ suspicions were raised.

Kinana said “On arrival at the scene of the crime and as they started with the investigation, the police found six people murdered and among them were children.

“The deceased persons include a 42-year-old mother and her children aged between six months and 10 years old. An axe which was found at the scene of the crime is believed to have been used as an instrument in the commission of the murders.

“The circumstances surrounding the incident are currently under investigation by South African Police Service detectives. No arrest has been made at this stage. It is alleged that the husband to the 42-year-old mother, and who is of Zimbabwean origin, has disappeared. Police believe that he can assist with the investigations into the case”.

Eastern Cape police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga, described the incident as “shattering”.

Ntshinga said “It is inconceivable that just at the opening day of the 16 Days of Activism we can wake up to such a horrible and distressing incident. Whoever is behind these gruesome and heartless murders must be found without any delays”.

Ntshinga has ordered the activation of a 72-hour plan, in order to ensure that all the necessary resources needed to make an arrest and finalise investigations were in place.

Kinana said anyone with information on the murders and the whereabouts of the husband should alert their nearest police station or call the Crime Stop number: 08600 10111. All the information received would be treated with strict confidentiality.