Noli Makha remained hopeful that her niece Uyinene Mrwetyana was alive, even as she stood in line to enter the Wynberg Magistrate's Court on Monday morning where a man believed to be involved in the teenager’s disappearance was expected in the dock.
Accompanied by loved ones, Makha shook her head furiously when asked about the possibility that her relative may have been murdered.
Aware of an unidentified body that was found in Khayelitsha two days after Mrwetyana's disappearance, Makha maintained that there was still hope that the first year University of Cape Town student was still alive.
"Where is our Uyinene?" one of the placards held outside the court gates read.
But Makha and Mrwetyana's family and friends' hopes were dashed when the suspect, who magistrate Goolam Bawa ruled could not yet be named, was charged with murder.
Prosecutor Nomnikelo Konisi told the court that Mrwetyana was killed in the Clareinch post office the same day she disappeared – Saturday, August 24.
An employee of the post office has confessed to raping and murdering her. He also faces a charge of defeating the ends of justice.
Mrwetyana had gone to enquire about a parcel on the day of her disappearance. The electricity had been off, and she was asked to return later.
Lured inside by the lone employee who offered to assist her, the accused had allegedly accosted and raped her. Mrwetyana fought back, believed to have kicked him in the genitals.
The suspect allegedly knocked her out. When she regained consciousness, she was bludgeoned with a scale as she screamed for help.
Her blood was found in the post office and in the suspect's car.
Students cried in the courtroom as details of Mrwetyana's murder were revealed.
Later, wailing loved ones supported each other in the corridors after the matter was postponed to allow an identity parade to be held and for outstanding statements and DNA reports to be obtained.
One man swore and pointed at the suspect as he made his way back to the holding cells.
The suspect has a past robbery conviction, Konisi confirmed during proceedings.
UCT vice chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng in a communique to students conveyed her distress at "Nene's" death, saying that losing a child is one of the most painful experiences for a family.
"But to lose her in this manner is even more tragic and heartbreaking," she wrote.
"The fact that a young female student has died in this horrific manner is devastating, and it has shocked us to our core. It is incomprehensible that a young life, with so much potential, has been stolen from her family and our community.
"It is even more distressing that this horrible incident is one of many where women – young and old, and even girls – are ripped from our communities in such a violent manner."
The university's executive would be meeting urgently to discuss how the life of Nene and others affected by violence could be commemorated, Phakeng said.
The first-year film and media studies student lived at Roscommon House in Main Road, Claremont, a student residence leased by UCT.
@PostofficeSa shocked and saddened by this horrible inhumane act alleged against an employee. It’s deplorable and were embarrassed. Condolences to the affected family. We’re collaborating with the police n wish for the might of the law to take cause fully— SA Post Office (@PostofficeSa) September 2, 2019
The ANC Women's League in the Western Cape on Monday said it found "this lethal act, this extreme violence against Uyinene, at a familiar place that should command trust, an institution of the state, extremely disturbing", calling for the perpetrator to face the full might of the law.
"The ANCWL finds this barbaric act not only a crime against Uyinene, her parents, her friends, but truly a crime against the state. The primary task of a state, its institutions, its infrastructure, its human resource, is to protect and serve its citizens.
"This trickster and jailbird, without any shame, has used the trust people have on the state, the sanctity of the state, the state infrastructure at his disposal, to lure Uyinene and kill her in an unconscionable act of thuggery that is unforgivable."
The ANCWL called for a new screening mechanism for all state employees "in order to clean up the state and protect its sanctity".