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Grieving Thokoza family seeks justice for murder

The suspect arrested for murdering Zanele was also released, and the detective said it was because of lack of evidence.

The family of Zanele Mokoena (19), who was murdered and her body dumped in the veld near RP Maphanzela Primary School in Thokoza on May 9, is displeased with how the Thokoza SAPS police are handling the kidnapping and murder case.

They said this during the memorial service of Zanele, held at her home in Thokoza, on May 16.

Zanele’s sister, Palesa Mokoena, told Kathorus MAIL when members of the family went to the police station on May 15 to follow up on investigations about the case, they found the detective assigned to the case had not checked the docket for registration on the system.

“The suspect arrested for murdering Zanele was also released, and the detective said it was because of lack of evidence.

“Before we went to the police station to do the follow-up, we went to the Palm Ridge Magistrate’s Court on May 13 expecting that the suspect was going to appear in court that day, but to our dismay, court officials informed us the case was not on the court registry,” Palesa explained.

She mentioned the detective also said he had a backlog of cases dating back to 2017, so it would be difficult for him to leave the other cases and focus on the more recent case of Zanele.

“The detective informed us we should not expect to get the post-mortem results soon because the results normally take time to return.

“My sister disappeared at around midday on May 8 after she left the house and said she was going to collect cups and money from the suspect. We called her number when we realised it was getting late and my sister had not returned home. She could only answer her cellphone at around 16:05 and after that, we never heard from her,” said Palesa.

She added around 17:30 she received a WhatsApp message from her sister’s phone.

“On the message, my sister said she got the cups, and the suspect sent her to Shoprite to withdraw money.

Around 18:00, the suspect sent a message to my cousin saying he gave Zanele the money he owed my cousin. After the message, we realised Zanele had still not returned. My two sisters went out in search of her.

“While they were looking for Zanele, they came across the person from whom Zanele said she was collecting money and cups. The person said she last saw Zanele around 14:00,” Palesa stated.

She said the person said he hoped Zanele was safe wherever she was.

Family members, friends and neighbours of the deceased carry lights during a memorial service to remember Zanele.

“The young man gave them his cellphone to call Zanele. Unfortunately, her cellphone was now on voicemail. My sisters decided to return home. They thought she would come back, but she never came back.

Around 22:30, I received a view once photo WhatsApp message of Zanele from her cellphone. She seemed to be in an uncomfortable position on the ground.

“I assumed maybe she was drugged or drunk somewhere. I replied to the message, asking what was wrong. The person who was possessing Zanele’s cellphone quickly replied: ‘I’m taking over the higher table, she’s still breathing, for now, you will do as I say’.

“Thereafter the person sent a message, deleted it, and then sent another message which stated: ‘Inform the cops she dies, you leave the house, she dies. My first demand is R5 000 for her breakfast tomorrow. I don’t like to repeat myself Capitec cash send now,” Palesa explained.

She mentioned she replied asking where she could get her, but the message didn’t go through.

“I was from Boksburg North travelling back to Thokoza at that moment, so I also called the 10111 number to report the matter.

“When I arrived in Thokoza, I went to question the person who my sister said she was going to when she disappeared. The young man said he didn’t know Zanele at first when I questioned him, but then he changed his statement and confessed to knowing Zanele.

“When I checked the person’s cellphone, I found he had deleted his WhatsApp texts wherein he was communicating with Zanele. After I went home, we called Thokoza Police Station. They dispatched police officers to our home and when the police officers arrived, we went with the police officers to the suspect’s place. The police officers questioned the suspect, and he still gave the same answer that he last saw Zanele at 14:00,” said Palesa.

She said after the police officers questioned the suspect; they went with the officers to Zanele’s friends and also questioned them, but they said they didn’t see Zanele on that day.

“The police officers advised us to open a missing person’s case, however on the following day, on May 9, as a family we went out around 06:00 in search of Zanele, and my other sisters found her burnt body in the veld near RP Maphanzela Primary School.

“My uncle called the police, and they came to the scene, including the pathologists. As a family, we told them we suspected the person that Zanele said she was going to collect the cups and money. The police opened a kidnapping and murder case, and then arrested the suspect,” Palesa expressed.

She added the police released the suspect because of a lack of evidence.

“We are disappointed in the police as a family because they released the suspect without notifying us,” Palesa concluded.

Kathorus Mail newspaper sent an enquiry to the police and was still awaiting a response.

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