An investigation has been ordered into how a Cape Town post office worker, accused of killing UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana, was employed at the public facility despite an alleged criminal record, Communications and Digital Technologies Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said on Tuesday.
When the 42-year-old man appeared in court on Monday, it emerged that the first-year film and media studies student had been killed in the Clareinch post office in Claremont the same day she disappeared - Saturday, August 24.
News24 reported that a post office employee had confessed and faces charges of murder, rape and defeating the ends of justice.
Regional National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila told Radio 702: "He's got a previous record, I think of armed robbery... what we call robbery with aggravating circumstances. There is also a case of rape that he had but it was withdrawn. I don't have the circumstances of why it was withdrawn."
Addressing Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Communications on Tuesday morning, Ndabeni-Abrahams indicated that the Post Office had been directed to investigate how the employee was allowed on site without security clearance.
"The Post Office is a national keypoint with access to people's addresses. It is vital to protect this location, its information and those who access it," she said.
"The employee was appointed during the time of labour brokers. We would also like to call on MPs to make their voices heard on the reality that women are no longer free and safe to be women, that they are no longer safe among their own men. We call for harsher sentences [for] perpetrators. We will be visiting the family in the Eastern Cape and we convey condolences to the family and the school."
In a statement, Ndabeni-Abrahams said it was disheartening that Mrwetyana was raped and murdered during Women's Month.
"As the shareholder representative of SAPO (South African Post Office), I am deeply disturbed by the fact Ms Mrwetyana has met her untimely and gruesome death at the hands of one of our own," she said.
"I would like to assure South Africa at large that as a department, we will leave no stone unturned in the quest to ensure that the family of Ms Mrwetyana finds justice."
Ndabeni-Abrahams said she was hopeful the law would take its course and that justice would be served.
"While we absolutely respect legal proceedings, I personally would like the alleged murderer of Ms Mrwetyana to receive the harshest sentence possible. Such behaviour needs to be strongly condemned and discouraged."
- FOLLOW News24 on Twitter