The search for missing tuckshop owner Zoleka Gantana and her employee, Kholosa Mpunga, ended tragically after their dismembered remains were found burnt beyond recognition and dumped in a dam at the weekend.
Three suspects have been arrested in connection with their deaths. They are due to make their first appearance in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Monday facing murder, kidnapping, possession of stolen property and business robbery charges.
Eastern Cape police spokesperson Thembinkosi Kinana said the suspects, aged between 44 and 50, were arrested in Peddie on Saturday.
This led to the discovery of the dismembered bodies of Gantana, 57, and Mpunga, 27.
“Their arrests were preceded by the recovery of the stolen vehicle belonging to Gantana, which was found stuck in the mud. Groceries were later found in one of the suspect’s homes on the farm.
“During the investigation, the detectives discovered that both women were murdered with a firearm.
“It is alleged that their bodies were chopped up, burnt and subsequently dumped in a dam near the farm at Gcinisa Village,” Kinana said.
Kinana said the remains retrieved from the dam were taken to a mortuary and would be sent for forensic laboratory testing to confirm that they were those of the missing women.
The family of Gantana last heard from her on July 8 and the next morning a worried neighbour called them after it was discovered that her shop in Ncerha Village, near East London, had been looted and her bakkie was missing.
Mpunga is reported to be from Mtyholo Village, outside Qonce, and is a mother of a one-year-old.
Gantana’s daughter, Nobuntu, who is the Eastern Cape’s Correctional Services spokesperson, had earlier told the Cape Times that they had believed it was “a robbery that turned into a kidnapping”. We remain in faith that they will be found soon”.
On Sunday, she confirmed her mother’s death.
The Methodist Church of South Africa, where Gantana was also a minister, announced her death in a letter.
“It is with a heavy heart that I officially announce the passing of our beloved sisters Zoleka Gantana, who was the YWM Vice-President at Circuit 311 and her helper Kholosa Mpunga.
After a long search as we received the news of them being missing, their bodies were found. May we continue to uphold both families and the circuit in prayers as we give them time and space to grieve,” the Kumkani Hintsa District bishop wrote.
Gender-based violence activist and rape survivor, Reverend June Dolley-Major said: “This is absolutely horrific, inhumane, and gruesome.
One can only imagine what a painful death these women endured. We failed them in their lifetime, let us not fail them in death, may justice prevail.”
I pray for multiple life sentences, to run consecutively, with no possibility of parole.
“We need to send a very clear message to perpetrators, that we will not tolerate them any longer. Harsher sentences need to be handed down, no privileges in prisons, hard labour.”
Spokesperson of non-profit organisation Ilitha Labantu – which focuses on helping abused women and children – Siyabulela Monakali, said the rate of violence perpetrated against women in South Africa had reached an alarming scale.