Cape Town – “He smiled, he looked at all the faces desperately waiting to hear Nene’s fate in that court and he smiled. I am defeated.”
These were the words of Uyinene Mrwetyana’s sister, Khanya, whose hopes for the safe return of the 19-year-old fondly known as Nene were dashed when the man arrested in connection with her disappearance appeared at the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court yesterday.
He was charged with her murder, rape and defeating the ends of justice.
The 42-year-old’s name and picture is being withheld as an identity parade must still be held.
Mrwetyana, a first-year film and media studies student was last seen alive on August 24 on her way to collect a parcel at the Clareinch Post Office in Claremont, where the accused worked.
Khanya wrote an open letter to her sister, saying: “What haunts me the most isn’t the fact that you’re gone and taken away from us so soon, it’s the thought of the fear and pain you experienced all alone. I’m so sorry.
“Now we hold on to the memories we shared together and the thought of what could’ve become of you had that man not violated you.
“Uyinene, you’re still my baby sister and always will be. I love you so much. Fly away my butterfly.”
Three private investigators, including Noel Pratten, who was involved with the search and discovery of slain Meghan Cremer, joined the search for Mrwetyana over the last week.
In the early hours of Friday, police and the provincial Flying Squad arrested the man who allegedly confessed to raping Mrwetyana before killing her and dumping her body.
Detailing the events leading to Mrwetyana’s death, prosecutor Nomnikelo Konisi said the young woman had gone to the post office after 2pm; the accused told her to return later as the power was off.
When Mrwetyana returned, the accused was alone and he allegedly accosted her and locked them in the building before raping her and bludgeoning her repeatedly with a scale.
The court heard Mrwetyana had fought hard for her life.
UCT’s students, staff and her family filled the benches of the courtroom and consoled each other as they heard how she was brutally killed.
Western Cape National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said: “The accused has confessed to his crimes and has pointed out where he dumped her body in Lingelethu West, Khayelitsha.
"Blood was found inside the post office in Claremont where the accused worked, in his car and on his shoes. The case has been postponed to November 5 for further investigation.”
Police said an unidentified body had been discovered in Lingelethu West and were waiting on DNA tests to verify the identity of the person.
“An autopsy on an unidentified body discovered in Lingelethu was performed this morning (Monday) and we are still waiting for the DNA results,” said provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa.
Post Office spokesperson Martie Gilchrist said the entity was shocked at the news and confirmed the man was an employee at the Clareinch office.
UCT student representative council (SRC) chairperson Asanda Lobelo said: “Everybody is overwhelmed and we don’t know how to feel. Things are tense at the institution. The last time the atmosphere was this heavy and tense was after professor (Bongani) Mayosi’s death.
“We have been calling for everyone to keep their faith and hopes up. So even though police issued a statement of a body that was found we were hopeful that it’s not her and the arrested suspect was going to appear maybe for not bringing information forward.”
A friend of Mrwetyana, Unathi Mbolombo, said that when Mrwetyana didn’t show up to meet with her parents and brother, she got concerned.
“Something was wrong because it was unlike her. We looked for her and she was nowhere to be found. In our friendship circle and people that know her confirm she always stated where she was going.”
Students held a night vigil outside UCT’s Sarah Baartman Hall last night.
UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said: “The fact that a young female student has died in this horrific manner is devastating, and it has shocked us to our core.
"It is incomprehensible that a young life, with so much potential, has been stolen from her family and our community. It is even more distressing that this horrible incident is one of many where women - young and old, and even girls - are ripped from our communities in such a violent manner.”
Students experiencing distress have been urged to utilise the South African Depression and Anxiety Group UCT Student Careline on 0800 24 25 26 free from a Telkom line, or SMS 31393 for a call back.