JOHANNESBURG – The family of Tshegofatso Pule is bracing themselves to hear the painful details of her gruesome death after the arrest of a 31-year-old suspect.
The murder of eight-months pregnant Pule was the latest in a series of violent attacks against women that have rocked South Africa in recent months after her stabbed body was found hanging from a tree last week. She was buried last week in Soweto.
Muzikayise Malephane, 31, appeared briefly at Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court yesterday afternoon, where he was charged with premeditated murder. Police spokesperson Colonel Noxolo Kweza said yesterday morning that Malephane had been travelling from Mpumalanga when he was arrested in Gauteng on Monday.
Pule’s uncle, Tumisang Katake, told The Star that Malephane’s arrest was a step in the right direction.
“We have to prepare ourselves for the next chapter of having to attend Tshegofatso’s trial. It is going to be difficult because we will be forced to relive her last memories and even her last moments on Earth, but we are preparing ourselves for a difficult journey ahead,” he said.
Katake, who had represented the man who murdered Karabo Mokoena, said the family did not know the accused.
“We don’t even know this person, so maybe if we see him we’ll be able to reconnect the dots, but as it stands we don’t even know and it’s not even the boyfriend of Tshegofatso, who was arrested,” he said.
He added that the family was still in the dark about the circumstances that surrounded how Pule died.
Malephane entered the court after 2 pm wearing an all-black outfit and covered his face. He sat in the dock and cried before the proceedings began.
Magistrate John Baloyi told the accused he had the right to apply for bail, but Malephane declined.
The matter was postponed to June 24 for Malephane to apply for legal aid and to appear via camera from Krugersdorp Correctional Centre.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Phindi Louw Mjonondwane said the accused’s next appearance would probably be postponed for further investigation once his legal representative presented himself to the court.
Sonke Gender Justice senior strategic adviser Bafana Khumalo said the non-profit organisation was happy that someone had been identified, and he hoped that the case did not have any glitches or delays.
“We have our suspicions that more than one person may have been involved in Tshegofatso’s brutal murder, and we hope that with this breakthrough more evidence shall come to light. There was also a car that was apparently used, so clearly there are several persons that need to be included,” he said.
Khumalo added that Sonke Gender Justice believed that more needed to be done than just arresting suspects because this was a reactive approach.
“We keep emphasising for more prevention measures to be urgently used in our country so we can prevent these needless deaths of women There is a lot of work that we need to do, particularly with South Africa’s boys,” he said.
Soul City Institute for Social Justice spokesperson Gail Smith said Malephane’s arrest should be lauded. However, she added that it was abundantly clear that there were systemic weaknesses and failures in the justice system.
“The arrest of this suspect is important and welcomed. However, the arrest of one suspect or several suspects in high-profile cases do little for the tens of thousands of women and girls living with the ongoing horror of gender-based violence,” she said.
International Women’s Forum of South Africa president Irene Charnley praised the police for their swift action and said the organisation trusted that justice and the legal proceedings were swift.
“We cannot interfere with the court processes, but we call for harsh punishment. We trust that the case will be expedited urgently,” she said.