The man charged with murdering Tshegofatso Pule, the pregnant 28-year-old who was found stabbed and dangling from a tree in Roodepoort two weeks ago, was allegedly boyhood friends with the father of Pule’s unborn child.
This claim about Muzikayise Malephane, 31, who wept in the dock during his first court appearance this week, comes as detectives continue trying to decode the final hours of Pule’s life.
On Thursday June 4, she told her family she was going to meet Ntuthuko Shoba — the father of the baby she was due to deliver in July and the man she called her boyfriend — to buy baby clothes. Later she sent them a text message saying she and Shoba had argued and she was coming home.
CCTV cameras captured images of her leaving Shoba’s apartment block in a grey Jeep on Thursday night. She was not seen again until her corpse was found the following Monday.
Her death set in motion a wave of protests and outrage about gender-based violence, with President Cyril Ramaphosa likening it to a plague in society.
This week, Malephane’s mother told the Sunday Times her son and Shoba had grown up alongside one another. She spoke on condition that she not be identified by name, saying she did not want to jeopardise her good standing in her church.
“Shoba and my son were good friends when they were younger, they grew up together when we lived in Pimville,” she said.
“That boy says he doesn’t know my son, he denies it. But how can he do that when he and Muzikayise used to play together?”
On Monday her son was in handcuffs, having been arrested a week after Pule’s body was found in the veld at Durban Deep gold mine in Roodepoort.
During his appearance on Wednesday in the Roodepoort magistrate’s court, Malephane, who his mother described as “gentle” and “caring”, wept as he sat in the dock, speaking only to confirm that he would not pursue a bail application.
The Sowetan reported that Malephane had made a statement to police implicating a person close to Pule as the hidden hand in her slaying.
The price on her life, according to the report, was R70,000, and in another twist Malephane is alleged to have revealed this was the second attempt on the beauty therapist’s life.
The newspaper also revealed his chequered history with the law, saying he had previously been charged with attempted murder and possession of a stolen car.
The attempted murder charge was withdrawn, and Malephane’s mother told the Sunday Times he was convicted for “joyriding in a stolen car” and served 10 months in prison.
Despite his failings, she said, her son was a “sweet and kind boy” who would help anyone in need. “He is not an aggressive person and he’s just very down to earth.”
Asked if she believed he was innocent of Pule’s killing, the woman, a business person, hesitated. “I can’t say my son is innocent,” she replied. “Knowing his character I don’t think he did it … but I don’t know.”
She too suggested someone else must have been involved, someone who had influenced Malephane. “The person who put my son in this situation is someone [close to Pule]. The police must bring everyone responsible to justice.”
Police spokesperson Capt Kay Makhubele said the investigation had not halted with the arrest of Malephane, and detectives did not rule out the possibility that another person or persons were involved.
Malephane’s mother said the woman her son lived with had made a statement to the police but had since gone into hiding.
In an interview last week, Shoba’s father, Mzwakhe, said that on the night Pule disappeared his son told the family he did not know the people she had left with. “All he saw was the grey Jeep. It was assumed it was a taxi, but it doesn’t seem like it.”
Attempts to contact the Shoba family this week were unsuccessful.
Shoba and my son were good friends when they were younger … That boy says he doesn’t know my son, he denies it. But how can he do that when he and Muzikayise used to play together?
Muzi Malephane’s mother, referring to Ntuthuko Shoba