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Her wardrobe is still neatly packed. Her academic achievements hang above her neatly made bed in her family’s Lyndhurst, Joburg, home.
“She has always been a smart girl,” mother Phindi Mlandu said, her eyes cast on the trophies. “If she has a fast life outside her home life, I really don’t and didn’t know.”
Mlandu’s 20-year-old daughter, Nombuso, has been missing for close to three weeks.
The last Mlandu saw of her daughter was on September 28, when she left home, saying she’d be going to meet her friends in Melville to go to a braai in Soweto.
“I was going to an unveiling ceremony in Carletonville that morning and told her to leave behind an address and contact number for one of her friends that she’d be with as I was going to pick her up from the braai later that day, and she said she’d SMS those details to me,” Phindi said on Tuesday.
But Nombuso didn’t SMS.
At 7pm, when her daughter hadn’t returned home, Mlandu’s first reaction was anger.
“I SMSed her, telling her she knew she was supposed to be back already. By 10pm, when she hadn’t responded to the messages, I sent another one, saying she must stay wherever she is.
“Past 11pm, when she hadn’t responded again, I sent another message, asking her to tell me if she was in trouble or had no transport and I would fetch her wherever she was,” Mlandu said.
At 6pm the following day, when Mlandu realised her daughter was not responding to her calls and messages, and had not returned home, she went to the Sandringham police station, where a missing person case was opened.
As police continued investigations, shocking details of Nombuso’s life emerged.
Nombuso was enrolled at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) as a first-year BA corporate communications student, and every day, Mlandu had either dropped her off at school or left transport money for her to get to campus for her classes.
But, according to Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, the deputy vice-chancellor responsible for student affairs, Nombuso was not registered as a student at UJ since July.
“Since she was not registered at the university at the time of the alleged disappearance, and it occurred off UJ’s campus, the matter was not brought to the attention of the university,” Maluleke said.
Mlandu said she had had no inkling of this.
When Mlandu tracked down the friends her daughter had last been with, she found out her daughter was in a lesbian relationship and had spent the weekend with her lover, “MJ”.
The girl told Mlandu she last saw Nombuso on September 30.
Nombuso’s phone has been off since October 4.
“I wait for the sound of the keys at the door, thinking maybe it’s her. I wait in the driveway sometimes, thinking she might be there, but is too afraid to come in, and she doesn’t come… ” said Mlandu.