Last Thursday night, when 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule walked out of the housing complex in which her boyfriend resided, she was apparently not in a good state of mind, and told a friend that she wanted to come back home.
She climbed into a grey Jeep and was driven off into the night.
But she never made it home. A day later, her body was found with stab wounds and hanging from a tree in Durban Deep in Roodepoort on Monday. She was eight months pregnant with her first child – a baby girl.
City Press has reliably learnt that Pule’s best friend, whom she called prior to getting into the Jeep, is believed to have been the first person to report her missing to the police.
The friend and her family are under 24-hour police protection after she received threatening telephone calls from unidentified numbers, during which she was warned not to talk about her last conversation with Pule.
The friend could not even say her last farewell to the late Pule at the deceased’s funeral on Thursday, fearing for her safety.
By Saturday, no arrests had been made, but the Jeep was recovered and taken to the police’s holding facility for investigation.
“It has since been taken to the Lenasia VIS Vehicle Impound, but the police are still looking for the owner of the car,” said a police source.
Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubela said: “I can confirm that the car of the suspect was traced and has been confiscated. It is currently stationed at the SA Police Service’s premises.”
He said no arrests had been made yet, but police were following a lead and would make an arrest soon.
Ramaphosa speaks of ‘shameful week’
Pule’s death is just one of a number of femicides that have been reported across the country since the nation moved to lockdown level 3. Her death has sparked yet another outcry from South Africans, who have urged authorities to end gender-based violence and femicide.
President Cyril Ramaphosa added his voice to these calls yesterday, calling this a “dark and shameful week” for the country.
“It is a dark and shameful week for us as a nation. Criminals have descended to even greater depths of cruelty and callousness. It simply cannot continue,” Ramaphosa said.
“We note with disgust that, at a time when the country is facing the gravest of threats from the pandemic, violent men are taking advantage of the eased restrictions on movement to attack women and children.
“As we still struggle to come to terms with the brutality inflicted on Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo, Nompumelelo Tshaka and other women in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal whose bodies were found dumped this week, another woman has lost her life.”
The president added that the manner in which these defenceless women were killed pointed to an unconscionable level of barbarism and lack of humanity.
City Press has established that there was some sort of party at the complex where Pule’s boyfriend lives.
During a visit by City Press to the complex in the Johannesburg suburb of Florida this week, a resident, who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, said that, as usual, there was noise at the unit in question last Sunday night.
“Every weekend, there is a party there … We have complained as residents, but [the owner of the unit] would tell us that it was his own apartment and we must leave him alone,” said the concerned resident.
The resident said Pule was not the young woman who was seen drinking at the unit on Sunday.
“I saw a picture of the girl who was killed for the first time on social media this week. But I can tell you she is not the same girl I saw in the apartment on Sunday,” the resident added.
Anonymous, threatening calls
Two sources, who are aware of the last conversation Pule had with her best friend, said Pule called her friend on Sunday night.
She told her friend that she was in Florida and was having a misunderstanding, adding that she was coming back home.
The sources claimed her best friend was one of the people who knew what might have transpired that fateful Sunday.
“She is the last person Tshego spoke to a few hours before she took her last breath … Now she has been receiving anonymous calls threatening her not to reveal information on what transpired on the day Pule died, and she has also been blamed for opening a missing person case. As we are speaking, she and her family are under police protection 24/7.
“They were very close and it seems Tshego might have told her something during their last conversation,” said one of Pule’s family friends.
A societal matter
Pule’s family wants justice to be served and the culprits to be brought to book. Family members have also asked to be given time to mourn the death of Pule and her unborn child.
Pule’s uncle, Tumisang Katake, said the family last saw her on Thursday last week, when she left her home in Meadowlands, Soweto, to visit her boyfriend.
“She said they were going to buy their unborn child clothes. That was the last time the family saw her alive,” said Katake.
He said the family started to worry when Pule did not answer her phone and WhatsApp messages.
“We even tried calling her boyfriend, but we also did not get hold of him. We then dispatched family members to be on the lookout for Tshego, and her photo was circulated on social media for members of the community to assist on her whereabouts,” Katake said.
He added that, on Sunday, the family first went to Meadowlands Police Station. When they arrived at Florida Police Station in Roodepoort, they were told that a missing person case was already being opened by one of Pule’s friends. “The boyfriend was interrogated at that time by police officers,” he said.
Ramaphosa said yesterday that he was deploying ministers and their deputies to meet with community leaders around the country as part of national efforts to combat the Covid-19 coronavirus. The officials would also be engaging with communities on this “upsurge” in gender-based violence.
“In far too many cases of gender-based violence, the perpetrators are known to the victim, but they are also known to our communities,” said the president.
“That is why we say this is a societal matter, and not a matter of law enforcement alone. Gender-based violence thrives in a climate of silence. With our silence, by looking the other way because we believe it is a personal or family matter, we become complicit in this most insidious of crimes.”
Ramaphosa added that the criminal justice system was failing survivors of gender-based violence. He cited the case of 36-year-old Sibongiseni Gabada, from Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, who was found murdered last month. Her boyfriend allegedly confessed to the crime, but the case against him was dropped.
“For public faith in the criminal justice system to be maintained, gender-based violence needs to be treated with the urgency it deserves by our communities working together with our police,” Ramaphosa said.