By Mogomotsi Magome
Slain 10-year-old Masego Kgomo was buried during an emotional funeral on Saturday at which calls were made for her alleged killers to be given harsh sentences.
Masego's body was discovered nine days after she went missing on New Year's Eve in what appears to have been a muti killing.
Six suspects, including a sangoma, will appear in court on Tuesday on charges of abduction, murder and rape of Masego.
Her funeral was attended by hundreds of Soshanguve residents who expressed frustration over her death and the incidents of crime in their area.
Popular gospel musician Solly Moholo performed some of his songs during the funeral's first phase at the Soshanguve mini-stadium. The school choir from Masego's former school, Dithabaneng Primary, sang hymns.
Dignitaries who attended the funeral included the Minister of Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, Economic Development Deputy Minister Gwen Mahlangu Nkabinde, the Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Khabisi Mosunkutu, and Tshwane mayor Dr Gwen Ramokgopa.
Meyende-Sibiya, Mahlangu-Nkabinde and Ramokgopa also made their way to the Zandfontein Cemetery where they comforted Masego's distraught parents, Kate and Joseph Kgomo, throughout the proceedings.
Mosunkutu challenged the community to be more responsible about the protection of children, also implying that Masego would still be alive if people had acted when they had seen her with the suspects.
"When people who were in that shebeen saw her crying while in the company of these suspects, why did they not do anything?
"What did the owner of the shebeen say when a 10-year-old child was in the company of adults in his shebeen? From today on we must commit to changing some of the things we do as a community," he said. Mosunkutu said Masego's death was shocking and even though such incidents were becoming common in society, they should not be accepted and communities had to work with the police to fight them.
As other speakers did, Mosunkutu also condemned muti-related killings, saying they had no space in society and perpetrators had to be locked away for good.
"People are hiding behind our culture in order to perpetrate their criminal acts. We must make it clear that we have no such culture which requires people's body parts for muti; it is just criminality."
A tearful Ramokgopa said there was a need to engage traditional healers about what could be done to uproot people who were committing such crimes for muti.
"In my past life as MEC for health I dealt with a lot of traditional healers who do not have these kinds of beliefs. We need to meet them and see how we can root out some of them who are engaging in these criminal acts in the name of tradition," said Ramokgopa.
Mayende-Sibiya said the government would work with other stakeholders to ensure that the area where Masego's mutilated body was found would be turned into "a beautiful structure" in her memory.
"When we went to see the place where she was found I was scared as I thought about how she must have been frightened while being dragged there.
"We must create something beautiful out of that place in memory of Masego and all the other people who might have fallen victims to that area and have never been found," said Mayende-Sibiya.
She also decried what she described as the "arrogance of the suspects who had been arrested after they misled police" about where Masego's body was.
"This should also be taken into consideration when the courts determine their sentences," she added.
Police spokesperson Captain Julia Claassen said yesterday that investigations into Masego's case were continuing.