By Anga-Anganda Bushwana
Residents are up in arms after 34-year-old Phakama Tshobo was burnt to death in a shack in EThembeni three weeks ago, allegedly by a relative’s boyfriend.
The South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) membership and executive leadership, including the principal of TEM Mrwetyana Secondary School and SADTU Makhanda chairperson Nomalungelo Tambo, visited Tshobo’s family home in Extension Nine on 30 August to mourn Tshobo.
“We would have been having a Women’s Day celebration but because we are women and we are grieving with this family, we thought it would make the family feel supported by showing up and having a small ceremony, just to let them know that we are crying with them,” said Tambo.
Tshobo’s family have not been able to bury her because her remains were sent by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to Cape Town for forensic testing. Tshobo’s family told Grocott’s Mail that the mother of two had gone to EThembeni for a gathering known as a “sit-in” with friends and a relative, but that she fell victim to foul play after a night of drinking.
According to Tshobo’s neighbour, Nokuzola Namba, they believe that a man who is in a romantic relationship with a relative of Tshobo forced himself onto Tshobo and when she refused him, he killed her, then set fire to the shack and ran away.
The man has been on the run since the shack fire that killed Tshobo. “The son of this man told us as the family that he, auntie [Tshobo], and dad were sleeping in the same bed, and dad was forcing himself on auntie”, said Kholiswa Tshobo, the 65-year-old mother of Phakama Tshobo.
A day after Tshobo was killed, her relative who is allegedly in a relationship with the perpetrator, was beaten up by residents when she refused to give up information regarding the whereabouts of the alleged perpetrator. According to residents, she was beaten to a pulp and as a result, was admitted to Settlers Hospital. “The police were supposed to keep this woman in detention until they told us what happened. The police are doing nothing and that is why this man ran away,” said Namba.
Nkohli Majola, Eastern Cape spokesperson for SAPS told Grocott’s Mail that there was no evidence to support the family’s claims and that he would not entertain speculation. “The information that we as the police have is that the previous day, these people were drinking indoors and in the morning the house burned down. As to the circumstances of how the house burned down, we do not know,” said Majola.
Majola added that an inquest docket had been opened but the police had not charged anyone with murder as there were no signs of injuries on Tshobo’s body. Although Tshobo’s family said her body had been burnt down to the bone, Majola said her body was still intact and had been sent to Cape Town for forensic investigation.
This is an ongoing investigation and Grocott’s Mail will publish follow-up articles as soon as we receive further information.