Student’s murder causes uproar

Uyinene Mrwetyana

While the loved ones and fellow students of 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana are grappling to come to terms with her horrific death, angry residents of Khayelitsha torched the home of the 42-year-old man accused of her rape and murder on Tuesday night.

No one was injured in the incident but the Lingelethu West house was destroyed.

Claremont police arrested the accused, a SA Post Office employee, 8pm last Thursday for Uyinene’s murder. Uyinene, known as Nene, was last seen leaving her student residence in Claremont on Saturday August 24, around 1.30pm.

Colonel Maree Louw from Claremont police said the arrest came after they received a tip-off last Thursday that the Clareinch post office in Claremont might be a crime scene as blood had been spotted on a mop.

“Captain Craig Philips cordoned off the crime scene and the Local Criminal Record Centre took fingerprints and DNA samples on the scene,” she said.

Colonel Louw said as the employee was not at work during the day, detectives stood outside the post office on Thursday evening until the suspect drove past.

“Sergeant Wayne Botha arrested the suspect and shoes with blood (on them) were found in the boot of the vehicle. He confessed to the murder of Uyinene and also pointed out the location of the disposed body,” said Colonel Louw.

The accused appeared in Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Monday September 2, where prosecutor Nomnikelo Konisi told the court that the accused was charged with rape and murder as well as defeating the ends of justice.

According to reports in the Cape Times, Ms Konisi told the court that Uyinene, a first-year film and media UCT student, had gone to the Claremont post office to collect a parcel. “The lights were out and the accused asked her to return later and when she returned, he accosted her and allegedly raped her, she fought back and he hit her with a scale,” said Ms Konisi. “The accused later dumped her body in Lingelethu West, Khayelitsha and took investigators to the scene,” said Ms Konisi.

Uyinene’s disappearance was posted by the Pink Ladies organisation last week via their social media site. Many people took to social media with the hashtag #bringNenehome included in hundreds of tweets from people trying to raise awareness about her disappearance.

UCT spokesperson, Nombuso Shabalala, said Uyinene’s horrific death had shocked the university to the core. “ It is incomprehensible that a young life, with so much potential, has been stolen from her family and our community,” she said.

Ms Shabalala said counselling was available to staff and students who may feel overwhelmed by this tragedy.

UCT held a night vigil in Uyinene’s honour on Monday September 2. Her death and the sexual assault and murders of so many other women and girls over the past few weeks when women were meant to be celebrated as part of the national annual Women’s Month commemoration in August, led to an online petition in which people are rallying behind the call, “Bring Back The Death Sentence in SA For Crimes Against Women”. The petition has over 500 000 signatures already.

Over the past month, five other young women in the Cape have died in horrific circumstances: Janika Mallo,14, from Heinz Park was found dead in her grandmother’s yard on Sunday September 1 with her head bashed in and possibly raped; Jesse Hess, 19, a University of the Western Cape student from Parow was raped and killed in her flat last Friday August 30 where her 85-year-old grandfather was also killed; 30-year-old Meghan Cremer’s body was found at a sand mine on a Philippi farm on the morning of Thursday August 8 after being missing from August 3; the dismembered body of Lynette Volschenk, 32, was found stashed in plastic bags in her Bellville flat on Thursday August 22 and eight-month pregnant Sadiqah Newman, 26, was shot multiple times while on her way to a shop in Tambo Village near Manenberg on Thursday August 8.

Martie Gilchrist, regional communications manager for the SA Post Office, said they were shocked and saddened by the “horrible and inhumane act alleged against an employee.”

“It is deplorable and we are embarrassed and we also want to convey our condolences to the family and friends and is confident that the law will take its course,” she said.

Many members of the community placed flowers and cards outside of the post office where Uyinene was murdered.

Among them was Claremont resident, Mvuyi Mhlauli who said she was sad about what happened to Uyinene.” We must pray for all the women who died in the past month,” she said.

Ward councillor Sharon Cottle described Uyinene’s killing as an atrocious incident that should never have happened. “ My sincere condolences go to the family. I will continue to support the local neighbourhood watch groups, community police forums and work with police to continue the fight against crime.”

Albert Fritz, the MEC for Community Safety, said the “commonness” of gender-based violence in our society is of grave concern. “We cannot tolerate violence, harm or abuse of women in any shape or form,” he said.

The court ordered that the identity of the accused in Uyinene’s murder not be released. The accused will be back in court on Tuesday November 5 via an audio link from prison.