How and why serial cheat Ntuthuko Shoba plotted brutal murder of side chick Tshegofatso Pule


He was a 30-something guy with a good job at the JSE, a loving family and a promising future; a snappy dresser with an eye for the ladies.

But then support analyst Ntuthuko Shoba was exposed as a cold-blooded monster who plotted the brutal murder of 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule when she fell pregnant with his child.

Pule’s body, bloody and battered, was found hanging from a bluegum tree in the veld in Durban Deep, Roodepoort, in June 2020. She had been dumped like a bag of rubbish, with a gunshot wound to the chest. She was eight months pregnant.

Shoba, a serial cheat, was also in a long-term relationship with his childhood sweetheart. He regarded Pule as his “side chick” and the relationship turned ugly when she fell pregnant for a second time.

After being convicted of murder in March, Shoba, 33, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday by acting judge Stuart Wilson, who said Shoba had wanted to get rid of Pule and his unborn child because they were an “inconvenience to him and to his hopes of pursuing a relationship with someone else”.

“Ms Pule was vivacious but it is equally clear to me from the evidence led that she was also a vulnerable young woman looking for care and attention, a meaningful connection that she thought a relationship with Mr Shoba might be able to give her. Her vulnerability was not just emotional, it was material as well,” the Johannesburg high court judge said.

Wilson said that as Pule’s pregnancy progressed, she relied on the financial support that Shoba provided. That reliance only deepened as her pregnancy went on.

“This vulnerability both animated Mr Shoba’s decision to kill Ms Pule and formed a critical part of his design to do so,” he said. “It was also Ms Pule’s dependence on Mr Shoba for money to buy baby clothes and to transport her to and from his home that gave Mr Shoba the opportunity to arrange for her abduction and murder.

“That is probably the most aggravating feature of this case.”

Evidence revealed that Shoba had pressured Pule to have an abortion the first time she felt pregnant, but this time she had wanted to keep the baby.

Pule told Shoba in WhatsApp messages that she was stressed and it had not been her choice to fall pregnant “twice with your child”.

“I know you don’t want this child but I was not going to live with myself gore [sic] I aborted a child ka three months [sic]. I’m not that evil … I just felt God was going to punish me for doing that. And to think it was not my first time doing it.

“Sorry for ruining your plans in life — I did not mean to.”

Shoba made repeated promises to Pule, but she was left to face the pregnancy on her own while he hid behind work and his other girlfriend.

Instead of going with her to consultations with doctors, he arranged Uber taxis to take her, and lied about paying medical expenses.

On February 5 2020, Pule wrote to Shoba: “We have a situation and that needs to be dealt with … I need your support … Time is not on our side cos I want to start going for my check-ups. I don’t want to risk [the pregnancy].

“I’m in a [fragile] state.”

Pule was financially dependent on Shoba after resigning from her job as a makeup artist several months earlier. She also started

receiving threatening messages from a woman warning her to leave her man alone. She blocked the number.

Shoba approached Muzikayise Malephane, whom he had known since their school days, and asked him to connect him with someone who would kill his girlfriend.

“He said he had been at the Roodepoort taxi rank and the people at the taxi rank don’t want to assist him. That is why he thought of me,” Malephane, who is serving 20 years for Pule’s murder, confessed in court.

Malephane decided to do the job himself. “I was being greedy, selfish and for the love of money,” he told the judge.

His first plan, which he hatched with

Shoba, was to lure Pule to a bogus job interview and then murder her.

He waited for her at a McDonald’s in Ormonde. But Pule found the sudden job offer dodgy. The person wanted to meet at a fastfood outlet during the hard lockdown when only takeouts were allowed. She decided not to go.

Malephane testified: “I waited there for a long time. I kept communicating with Mr Shoba. She never pitched up. Shoba and I were calling each other back and forth. I tried contacting Ms Pule after Shoba sent me her number but I could not get a hold of her.”

A week later, on June 4 2020, Shoba told him that was the day Pule “was supposed to die”.

“Shoba told me that Ms Pule was going to be visiting him that day.”

The two men discussed how Pule would be killed, with the plan being to hang her from a bridge in Maraisburg.

“Then he said he would let me know when I should pick her up,” said Malephane.

He drove to the bridge but found it was not a suitable spot to carry out the crime.

“It was impossible to hang someone there because it was a busy street.”

Malephane called Shoba. “He told me he was leaving the house and I could wait for him at the gate of his complex. This was after 8pm, before 9pm. I was driving my girlfriend’s silver-grey Jeep It was meant to be used as a decoy, to make it appear as though he had requested an Uber.”

Pule thought Malephane was taking her to her home in Meadowlands and was surprised when he took a detour. “She even asked me why am I not taking her home. I told her that there is something I have to drop off.”

Malephane drove to Noordgesig near Soweto and parked in open veld next to a juvenile detention centre, where he shot her and then dumped her body in Durban Deep.

He said when he made contact with Shoba, he was concerned only about whether the job had been done and where Pule’s cellphone was.

“His biggest stress was her phone. We met at Cashbuild in Meadowlands. It was a Saturday. He told me he was still arranging money. That was the end of the conversation.”

Malephane was arrested 11 days after Pule’s murder. Shoba was arrested seven months later, in February 2021, after Malephane turned state witness.

In his judgment Wilson said that although Pule had not pulled the trigger, he was the “prime mover in bringing about Ms Pule’s death”.

“Although Malephane inflicted the fatal wounds, the evidence says that he would not have killed Ms Pule unless Mr Shoba contracted him to do so and help him carry out that contract.”

According to a pre-sentencing report prepared by social worker Jessie Thompson, Shoba was raised by both parents with the support of a close-knit family. The younger of two brothers, he grew up in a loving, secure family and had close relationships with his brother, parents and extended family, the report said.

During his early childhood years, he was a sensitive child.

“His parents described him as a ‘mama’s boy’ and a ‘cry baby’. As he aged, he has however become more independent and became equally close to both parents. Although he was mischievous, he did not display any behavioural problems.”

The report said Shoba’s family did not condone the fact that he was in relationships with two women at the same time, but found it difficult to believe he was involved in the murder; he had accepted he was the father and was giving Pule financial support.

“His brother also fathered a child with another woman whilst being engaged and the family provided him with the necessary support, whilst dealing with the situation according to their customs.”

According to a victim-impact report presented in court, Pule’s brother Pholoso Pule, 22, tried to commit suicide after her murder. Their parents were both dead, and now he had no-one left.

He told the Sunday Times on Friday that he had changed after his sister’s death. “I asked myself, how I am going to survive?” he said.

Pholoso said the sentencing meant a lot to him and his sister would now be at rest. “She has walked her journey. I’d like to thank the media, the community and the political parties; if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have been where we are,” he said.

Pule’s uncle Tumisang Katake said the case had taken a toll on him personally, professionally and emotionally.

“I was fighting this thing with every bit of being that is in me.

“At the end of the day what we can say is that justice has been served. All this time that we have been coming to court, the ordeal that we went through as a family and the suffering that Mr Shoba has put us through, it felt like we were burying Tshegofatso again inside the court.”

He said the family would put the ordeal behind them and start mourning and healing.

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