Johannesburg - It was only when she saw her best friend’s naked, lifeless body tucked up in bed that the alleged killer’s confession sunk in.
The body of Rachel “Dolly” Tshabalala (nee Marawa) appeared to have been placed to look as though she was sleeping on Sunday in the Jabulani flat rented by her gospel-DJ boyfriend Donald Sebolai.
This is according to Tshabalala’s best friend, Nhlanhla Mkhize, who made the gruesome discovery and is haunted by it.
Sebolai had for months apparently hidden his dark and abusive private life from adoring fans of his Jozi FM community radio personality.
Now police have launched a manhunt for Sebolai, who disappeared on Sunday after he allegedly confessed the murder to Mkhize.
“We grew up together, she was like a sister to me,” said Mkhize, who recalled the chilling phone conversation she had with Sebolai early on Sunday.
“He kept saying ‘I’ve killed Dolly, I’ve killed her. She’s dead, she’s cold’.”
She didn’t believe him, but he insisted Tshabalala was dead.
Shocked, Mkhize couldn’t believe the confession and asked to meet him in a public place. But Sebolai never arrived, and called Mkhize back to change his story.
He said “Dolly was just sleeping” and asked Mkhize to come to the flat alone, to help wake her up.
Mkhize then went with police to the flat, but Sebolai was gone.
She found Tshabalala’s naked body, which Mkhize believed was manipulated into a sleeping position under clean sheets, and said it looked as though she had been stabbed in her genital area.
Mkhize described Sebolai as a “very abusive man” and said his neighbours often complained to the police about his alleged violence towards Tshabalala.
In April, his neighbours beat him up after Tshabalala refused to open a police case against him.
On Monday, neighbours at the Jabulani flat said he lived a secret life.
“I used to say to him, ‘what you preach on radio and the things you do here are two different things’,” said one neighbour.
The woman said she saw him pacing outside his flat on Sunday and discovered a pair of his bloodied jeans in a dustbin after he fled.
Other neighbours said they often heard Tshabalala’s screams at weekends, but this time they heard nothing.
The couple met in a Soweto pub eight months ago and found comfort in each other as they were both going through separations in their marriages.
Mkhize said they repeatedly broke up, but Tshabalala always took him back because she believed his promises to change.
Mkhize said her late friend’s 7-year-old daughter couldn’t stop crying but that she was safe with her father.
Sebolai hosted the Mid-Morning Chat show on weekdays, which ironically mostly focused on women’s and children’s rights, and on Thursdays he played gospel music.
“He hated gospel, that’s the funny thing,” Mkhize said.
On Thursday, during his Mid-Morning Chat show, he told listeners that this month he would focus on issues affecting families badly.
He said he failed to understand why some people did not have good relationships with their siblings or parents, especially their mothers.
On Monday, Jozi FM station manager Mpho Mhlongo said they had learnt “with great sadness and shock” that Sebolai was wanted in connection with the murder and called on him to hand himself over to the police.
Tshabalala, the only girl of four children and nicknamed Dolly by her father – worked as a Wits University receptionist and was studying towards a psychology degree.
“She had a passion for teaching and social work,” Mkhize said. – Additional reporting by Kutlwano Olifant