Cape Town – The police have made a breakthrough in the rape and murder of an Eastern Cape mother following the arrest of a Grabouw resident.
Lonwabo Mbalo, 31, yesterday appeared at the Tsolo Magistrate’s Court for the rape and murder of Philiswa Mzantsi, 49, early last year.
Mbalo, who the police said was on the run since last year’s gruesome incident was arrested in the Mbuto village, in Tsolo, Eastern Cape, on Wednesday, shortly after he arrived from Grabouw where he worked and stayed.
Mzantsi, a mother of three and a supervisor at Tsolo Boxer Superstore, was last seen by her colleagues leaving work for home in the Cingco village - about 2km from where the Mbalo was arrested.
Mzantsi did not make it home on May 4. Her family was alerted to her body in a field the following morning.
She was raped and killed after allegedly being accosted when she got out of a taxi on the way home, according to police.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Khaya Tonjeni said: “It is alleged that on this particular day (May 4, 2018) the deceased was (leaving) from work at about 7pm when she was forcefully dragged to the open veld by the suspect after she alighted from a taxi.
"She was found in the morning of the following day by a passer-by already dead.
“The suspect was sought since and was arrested at Mbutho locality.”
Following his court appearance, Tonjeni said Mbalo would be remanded in custody until October 21 when he is expected to apply for bail.
He will also be profiled as police are investigating whether he could be linked to other similar crimes.
Mzantsi’s older brother Malibongwe Mzantsi, 58, said he was overwhelmed when the investigating officer informed him about the breakthrough, as he recalled the day he was called to identify his sister’s body.
“The man is not known to the family but apparently he is originally from a neighbouring village. I vividly remember receiving a call from another man who knows me well.
“He didn’t want to tell me over the phone what happened. He just said he saw a woman who looks like my sister and is not well, so I must rush over.
“At the scene, there were many people and they all looked shocked. I saw her lying there in an open field, half naked. Her work skirt, tights and panty were on her knees so I knew she was raped.
"Her neck had bruises as if she had been strangled and it seemed broken. All of these were confirmed by a doctor. I was so angry and heartbroken with a lot of questions,” he said.
According to him, his sister was found by herders who called for help.
Among those first on the scene was a man who noticed she looked familiar and called the family.
“Today all those feelings came back I was furious. I didn’t see a remorseful person; his walks just showed that he doesn’t care about us the family and everyone who was affected by my sisters death.
“I never lost hope that he would be found because I know every criminal has his day, nothing stays in the dark forever. He brutally took away a pillar of strength, a mother, sister and friend.”
Malibongwe described his sister as a humble person with a big heart who was loved by many, especially the elderly in her village as she would assist them with transport to collect their social grants.
Mzantsi is survived by her three children aged 14, 21 and 23.