‘Nokuphila liked pink and white flowers’

Artist Zwelethu Mthethwa is charged with the murder of a sex worker

Artist Zwelethu Mthethwa is charged with the murder of a sex worker Photo: JACO MARAIS

Eva Kumalo placed pink and white roses on the pavement of Ravenscraig Road in Cape Town, right under the security camera where her daughter, Nokuphila Kumalo, was kicked to death three years ago.

“My child liked pink and white flowers,” she said.

It was Nokuphila’s birthday, February 11, and she would have turned 26.

In the Western Cape High Court, the man accused of murdering Nokuphila, internationally acclaimed South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa, was back in the dock, staring at his lap while his defence lawyer, William Booth, argued against the state.

Eva, speaking to City Press from Limnos Bakers, where she makes milk tarts and cheesecakes topped with strawberries and grapes, said it was okay that she couldn’t go to the court case; she’d given up on the case anyway.

Originally from Kimberley, where Nokuphila was born, Eva now lives in Gugulethu.

And between sips of Fanta Orange, she said she couldn’t afford to go to court and risk the chance of losing her new job – and besides, it wouldn’t bring back her daughter.

“The case doesn’t make a difference. He keeps on saying: ‘I’m not guilty, I’m not guilty.’

“And it’s not bringing her back,” she said.

According to police, CCTV footage shows Mthethwa pulling up next to Nokuphila in a black Porsche at 2.40am in the suburb of Woodstock.

He allegedly beats her, and when she falls to the ground, he stomps on her.

Booth has disputed the admissibility of the footage as evidence.

“Looking at the footage, you cannot identify anybody or a car’s registration plate. It shows a man and a woman, and the deceased.”

The state also said in court that a security guard who witnessed the murder jotted down the registration number of the alleged murderer’s car. Apparently this was the evidence that led to Mthethwa’s arrest.

But Booth countered that the registration plate jotted down by the guard was not the same as the one on Mthethwa’s Porsche.

Sex worker Gulam Petersen, who worked the streets of Woodstock with Nokuphila, told the court that she recognised Mthethwa.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’ve seen his face before, in the late nights and early morning hours in the Woodstock area, Main Road’,” she testified.

But Booth dismissed her testimony.

He said she was lying to the court.

Outside court, Petersen told City Press that Nokuphila had been her friend and that they “walked together at night”.

She said Nokuphila lived in Woodstock in a shack with two other girls.

“To me, she was always a friendly, vibey person.

“We talked about intimate stuff, clients and so on. We laughed a lot; anything to keep the night going,” Petersen said.

Nokuphila attended the Intshinga Primary School in Gugulethu while her mother worked as a griller at a steakhouse to pay the fees.

But Nokuphila never completed her schooling.

After she moved to Woodstock, she frequently visited Eva in Gugulethu with parcels of groceries and money.

She never told her mother how she was able to afford the parcels, or where she had got the money.

Ironically, the pictures of Nokuphila’s broken, lifeless body shown in court are the only record of her life.

Eva told City Press that she has no photographs of her daughter, only memories.

Meanwhile, Mthethwa, who has exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, was released on bail of R100 000 on May 6 2013.

He lives in Vredehoek on the slopes of Table Mountain. His former wife and fellow artist, Bongi Bengu, has refused to comment on their two-year marriage in the 1990s.

The case is expected to continue to be heard today.

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