Task force to probe killing of women in Gauteng

MURDERED: Best friends Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe, left, and Nombuyiselo Nombewu, right, were found murdered in Johannesburg. Picture: TWITTER

Gauteng Police have set up a task team comprising 16 detectives to probe the spate of killings of women over the weekend.

The death toll of women murdered in separate incidents in the past four weeks has risen to 10 following yesterday’s positive identification of three more who were killed at the weekend.

The task team was established to deal with crimes against women including a spate of robberies, rapes and kidnappings that happened recently in Soweto.

Five bodies were recovered in Gauteng, one in the North West, another in Limpopo, two in the Free State and another in KZN over the past four weeks. The distraught families of two friends who went missing in Johannesburg on Friday were at the Naledi Mortuary yesterday, painfully identifying their loved ones.

President Jacob Zuma added his voice to the community outrage that greeted the spate of killings of women recently.

One body of a woman who has been identified was that of 28-year-old Bongeka Phungula, a graduate from the Durban University of Technology, who was found dumped in Tladi with gunshot wounds to her head.

The second body was identified as that of 24-year-old Popi Qwabe from Zola 2 in Soweto.

Both young women appeared to have been raped before being killed. Qwabe’s grieving sister asked for time to process the tragic death.

“Our family is in KZN so I am all alone here waiting for them. I am not ready to speak about this,” she said.

A friend of Qwabe’s said she was shocked to learn that a picture circulating on social media of a woman found dead was someone she knew.

“It is such a difficult time for both families. After Bongeka was found they went to look for Popi at hospitals and mortuaries and she was found at a mortuary.

My assumption is the bodies were dumped at different locations after they were murdered,” she said.

She said Phungula had just sold her car and moved to Johannesburg to pursue her acting career. The killings came days after the shocking murder of Karabo Mokoena, allegedly by her boyfriend, Sandile Mantsoe. Mokoena was burnt beyond recognition and dumped in a bush. Zuma yesterday led the condemnation of escalating attacks on women and children.

“We are outraged and seriously concerned about the reports of the abuse and killing of women and children in some parts of the country.

We are especially concerned that in most cases, these attacks occur at the hands of family members or in the case of women, their intimate partners,” Zuma said.

The president reiterated that violence against women had been declared a priority crime by the government.

Facebook user iNdu Shezi wrote: “I’m so heartbroken! One of my best friends in high school Bongeka Phungula, who just recently moved to Johannesburg to pursue her acting career, has been shot dead. Her body was found at a dumping site!”

Police spokesperson Mavela Masondo yesterday confirmed the murders of Phungula and Qwabe.

“The two friends, Phungula and Qwabe, were found on Friday and Saturday but were only identified yesterday by their families. Another body of 27-year-old Lerato Moloi was found half naked and she is suspected to have been raped,” Masondo said.

He said police had made arrests in the case of Moloi but no arrests had been made in connection with the murder of the two friends.

Since Mokoena’s death, a number of women speaking out on abuse posted pictures of those who died at the hands of their partners. Gauteng community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi–Malobane condemned the spate of brutal killings. The Medical Research Council said a woman was killed every eight hours by their intimate partner in South Africa.

-Dikeledi Bridgette Ramabopa (dikeledir@thenewage.co.za)