‘Their murderers are still out there, three years later’: Families want justice for murdered women

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It’s been three years since friends Bongeka Phungula (28) and Popi Qwabe (24) were shot dead while heading for a night out in Soweto on May 12 2017.
It’s been three years since friends Bongeka Phungula (28) and Popi Qwabe (24) were shot dead while heading for a night out in Soweto on May 12 2017.

NEWS


It’s been three years since friends Bongeka Phungula (28) and Popi Qwabe (24) were shot dead while heading for a night out in Soweto on May 12 2017.

According to Phungula’s cousin, Mduduzi Ngubane, the details surrounding their deaths still remain unclear.

Ngubane said police informed the families that the bodies of the two young women were found in two separate locations, however, they are still in the dark about what happened to their loved ones.

“I last saw her [Bongeka] on the Wednesday [May 10 2017]. We went to the mall and had lunch. We had plans to go out on Friday, but something came up. She called me in the afternoon and told me she was going out with Popi,” Ngubane told City Press.

“I sent her a message that Friday night and she didn’t respond. She also didn’t respond to another one I sent on Saturday morning. This was very unlike her. I started getting worried, so I called Popi’s sister to find out if she had heard anything, but there was nothing.”

It was Mother’s Day that Sunday, and Bongeka’s daughter couldn’t wish her mum a Happy Mother’s Day because nobody knew where she was.

“On Monday we were asked by police to identify bodies and [that’s when we knew they were dead]. There were no postmortems done and we never really knew if they had been raped in addition to being shot,” she said.

Gender-based violence has plagued our nation for too long. We want to maintain pressure on the government. This is a broader call for improved criminal justice

Ngubane said police later informed them that they had arrested two taxi drivers in connection with the killings.

“[The police] found Bongeka’s phone and bloodstains in a taxi owned by one of the drivers, however, the two were later released because of lack of evidence.

“The police investigating the crime were not very helpful. They didn’t tell us what happened with the case. Some even blocked Popi’s sister on WhatsApp,” she said.

Ngubane said she was close to her cousin, who had moved from KwaZulu-Natal to Johannesburg in 2016 to chase her dream of acting.

“We were best cousins and spent a lot of time together. She was the type of person who would chase after her dreams. Growing up, we were inseparable.”

As part of the annual Write for Rights campaign, which demands justice for victims of human rights violations across the world, Amnesty International SA has called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to launch a thorough, fair and impartial investigation into the deaths of Qwabe and Phungula.

Campaign manager Jennifer Wells said she was disappointed in the police, who have failed to make progress on the case three years on.

“Every year we nominate 10 cases around the world that need to be campaigned on. We chose Popi and Bongeka’s case because it is a double murder and hasn’t been solved in three years. The people who killed them are out there and who knows how many other girls they’ve harmed,” said Wells

She added that the campaign had received support from 54 232 individuals across the world.

“Gender-based violence has plagued our nation for too long. We want to maintain pressure on the government. This is a broader call for improved criminal justice.”

Meanwhile, Ngubane said she hoped that the campaign would encourage law enforcement to take action.

“Amnesty International contacted us to inform us about the campaign. We’re grateful because since the campaign started, we’ve received emails of support from people around the world. All we want is justice so we can find closure and move on.”

According to Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele, the case is still under investigation, and the suspects were arrested and appeared in court.

Makhubele referred City Press to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for more information about the case, but we had not received feedback from the NPA at the time this article was published.


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Molebogeng Mokoka 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
molebogeng.mokoka@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

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