'She told me he was going to kill her' - friend testifies in trial of man who dismembered girlfriend

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Flavio Hlabangwane was arrested in November after body parts were discovered inside the freezer in his residence.
Flavio Hlabangwane was arrested in November after body parts were discovered inside the freezer in his residence.
PHOTO: Tebogo Monama/News24
WARNING: This story may upset sensitive readers.
  • A State witness has provided chilling testimony about how Tshepang Pitse was allegedly abused by her lover and cousin, Flavio Hlabangwane.
  • Some of Pitse's body parts were found in a freezer in Hlabangwane's rented property.
  • Hlabangwane faces charges of premeditated murder, obstruction of justice and violating a corpse.

"You know what happens when you abandon the ship. When you return, I will shave you or put a scar on your face."

These were among threats by Flavio Hlabangwane that a friend of Tshepang Pitse heard him make over the phone to her before her death.

The friend gave chilling evidence in the Gauteng High Court sitting in the Palm Ridge Magistrate's Court on Tuesday about the abuse 23-year-old Pitse allegedly suffered at the hands of her lover and cousin, 28-year-old Hlabangwane.

READ | 'I took a butcher's knife, cut off her legs and arms': Gauteng man pleads guilty to killing girlfriend

The friend, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons, testified that her friendship with Pitse began in 2014.

"We met at Jabulani Technical High School in Soweto, where we attended. We later changed schools and I moved to KwaZulu-Natal and kept communicating telephonically. I know Hlabangwane. He was Pitse's friend and cousin. They started dating in 2016.

"I returned to Gauteng in April 2019. Pitse and I often communicated over the phone. We didn't meet much. She never spoke much about her love relationship. She only told me about the abuse she endured from Hlabangwane. She first told me in October 2019 after spending the night at my place."

Later, the witness and Pitse met at Westgate Mall and went to the witness' home in Roodepoort.

READ | Accused in Soweto body parts case admitted to psychiatric institution

"It was our first meeting since my return from KwaZulu-Natal... He called her, saying he was coming to pick her up. She said he was beating her. I didn't see any injury on her body. She was crying. He came, and they both left.

"In November 2019, she phoned me saying Hlabangwane was going to kill her. She took an Uber to my place from Protea Glen, where she was living with Hlabangwane. On her arrival at my place, he started phoning me. I don't know how he got hold of my number. He demanded to speak to Pitse. I refused to give her the phone. I told him that she was in the bath. Tshepang was crying.

"The following day she again complained that Hlabangwane was beating her. I advised her to leave him for good. She refused, saying I won't understand. She said she can't see the colour without Flavio. [Sometime later Hlabangwane] phoned Pitse again. She put the phone on the loudspeaker. My roommate was present.

The witness testified:

We heard him demanding Pitse return to him, saying, 'You know what happens when you abandon the ship. When you return, I will shave or put a scar on your face.' He gave her 30 minutes to return home using a taxi.

She said Pitse was crying, begging him on the phone not to cut her face when she returned home.

"I locked her in my room, preventing her from leaving. She started crying. I let her go. I walked her to the taxi rank. He later texted me, ordering me to mind my business, back off, and never interfere with his relationship. 

"That night, I received a voice note from Pitse saying he shaved her artificial dreadlocks. She later sent pictures of her hair on the floor. I convinced her not to commit suicide. The following day, she texted saying if I don't respect him, we can no longer be friends," the witness said.

"In August 2020, she visited me at my home in Protea Glen and spent the night with me."

READ | Soweto body parts case: Family of dismembered woman too traumatised to attend court

The witness testified that the following day Pitse told her the abuse was continuing and the accused was looking at other women.

"She said he demanded she calls him 'My King' and ordered her to kneel when serving him food. Pitse complained about an incident where he slapped her, and she bled. He then ordered her to 'wipe off your stupid blood and come and give me a blowjob'. Between March and April 2020, Pitse phoned me, saying he had beaten her again. She quickly hung up saying Hlabangwane was at home. She later sent me a picture of her bloodstains."

The witness added that on 28 January 2021, Pitse phoned again, saying Hlabangwane was going to kill her.

The witness said on 10 November 2021, she received a WhatsApp message from Pitse's phone.

"There was a time in October 2021 when she was unavailable on her phone and WhatsApp. I didn't know anything [had happened to her]. The same month, Hlabangwane texted me on my new phone. I don't know where he got my new numbers from. He insisted that he wanted to talk to me. 

"Hlabangwane asked me to be his girlfriend. I replied he was not my type and that I didn't think my friend would like that. He claimed that he broke up with Pitse a long time ago. I wanted to tell [Pitse] but could not reach her. He lied, saying she was preparing for exams and wasn't on social media.

READ | Dismembered Soweto woman's torso still missing

"I texted her, saying I wanted to tell her something, and she emphasised I text. I wanted to speak to her in person. A week or two later, she was back online," the witness said.

It is alleged that Hlabangwane killed Pitse between 6 October and 13 November 2021.

He allegedly later dismembered her body. Some of Pitse's body parts were found inside a freezer at Hlabangwane's rented property in Protea Glen.

Hlabangwane faces a charge of premeditated murder, obstruction of justice and violation of a corpse.

The hearing continues on Thursday.

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