Johannesburg - “I thought she would come back home safely.” These were Vinolia Kekana’s sad words after she had just learnt about her friend Philasande Ngum’s death.
Ngum, a second-year psychology student, who was reported missing earlier in the month, was found dead on Wednesday.
Ngum, 19, was thought to have been abducted at a Midrand mall on May 3.
Her mother, Catherine Ngum reportedly opened a missing person's case, distributed flyers and reviewed security footage from the mall showing her daughter entering, but not leaving.
The Sowetan reported that she received a phone call, on her daughter's cellphone, on May 11, from a man demanding R15 00 for her daughter's safe release.
After she paid the ransom into her daughter's bank account, the man phoned her again and said he would let her daughter speak to her and would release her, but this did not happen.
The newspaper reported that he called again on May 13 and said he would not release her because she had threatened him. No contact had been made since then.
On Wednesday, Ngum’s decomposed body was found in an open stretch of veld in President Park, Midrand. Her family went to identify her at the mortuary on Thursday.
Kekana’s day crumbled minutes after Ngum’s twin brother called to tell her the news.
A first-year BCom accounting student from North West University’s Vaal Campus, Kekana missed her last two lectures for the day.
“I’ve been crying ever since that call. I’m heartbroken. How can someone do such a cruel thing to Phila?” she asked, sobbing.
Gauteng police said a forensic investigation was under way to establish the circumstances that led to her death. Police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini said no one had been arrested.
He said it was suspected that she was killed where her body was found.
The news of Ngum’s death came a day before Kekana’s last semester tests before her exams next month.
“I can’t study at the moment. Everything doesn’t make sense,” she said.
The two have been friends since their first day at Hoërskool Jan de Klerk in Krugersdorp.
“Phila knew how to motivate us. She encouraged us to do well at school and was always a shoulder to cry on. She loved her twin brother and spent most of her time with him at school,” said Kekana.
For another friend, Thandi Dube, the murder of Ngum had still not sunk in on Thursday afternoon. The woman had read a Facebook post relating to the death while attending lectures.
Dube said she had then called some other friends, who confirmed the news. “Why Phila?” she asked.
Dube said she had bumped into Ngum nearly a month ago while shopping at the Key West Mall. They had not seen each other since 2011 after matriculating.
Speaking at her home in Kagiso, Ngum’s mother Catherine said she last spoke to her daughter a day before she went missing. “She called to ask what the (Bible) text for the month was. She was a God-fearing girl who knew how to pray and spread the Gospel,” she said.
“I wouldn’t have been this strong. But I’m doing everything through God, who is giving me the strength.”
The Star, Sapa