Tshegofatso Pule assassination: boyfriend accused of death of 28-year-old pregnant woman

Tshegofatso Pule was missing for four days before his body was found

The boyfriend of a South African woman, whose murder galvanized protests against violence against women in the country, has been charged with her murder in a court in Johannesburg.

Ntuthuko Ntokozo Shoba is accused of planning the murder of Tshegofatso Pule and of paying the killer.

The 28-year-old pregnant woman’s body was found hanging from a tree two years ago, with multiple stab wounds.

Mr. Shoba was not invited to plead when he appeared in court.

Last week, a Johannesburg court sentenced another man, Mzikayise Malephane, to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to the murder of Ms Pule.

In a plea deal read to court by his lawyer, Malephane, 31, said Mr Shoba offered him 7,000 rand (£ 340; $ 480) to carry out the murder, but he refused. The offer rose to 70,000 rand before accepting, he said.

Malephane told the court that Mr. Shoba “did not want his wife to find out about the unborn baby.”

Prosecutors have charged Mr. Shoba, who was arrested last week, with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and violation of the ends of justice.

The 32-year-old, whose legs were shackled, wore an all-black suit and shirt when he made his first court appearance on Monday, the TimesLive news site reported.

Ms Pule’s uncle Tumisang Katake said seeing Mr Shoba in court reopened “old wounds that were starting to heal.”

He added that the family knew Ms Pule was dating Mr Shoba, but did not know “what kind of relationship they were having”.

According to family she had gone to see Mr. Shoba at his Florida home in the West Rand District, 16 km (nine miles) west of Johannesburg in June 2019 after inviting her to run errands for the unborn baby, News24 reports.

They got into an argument and he later called a cab whose driver turned out to be Malephane.

On June 5, Ms Pule’s body was found hanging from a tree in the Roodepoort neighborhood in the West Rand District.

Murder suspect Muzikayise Malephane appears in Gauteng High Court on January 22, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa

Muzikayise Malephane implicated Ms Pule’s ex-boyfriend

His death was widely condemned and inspired the #JusticeForTshego hashtag on Twitter, reports the BBC’s Pumza Fihlani from Johannesburg.

In a country with one of the highest levels of violence in the world, including high cases of femicide, Ms Pule’s death shocked many, our reporter adds.

In response, President Cyril Ramaphosa issued a statement denouncing gender-based violence, saying the pandemic has made it more dangerous for women because “violent men take advantage of relaxed movement restrictions to attack women and children.”

As many as 51% of women in South Africa have been victims of violence at the hands of someone they were dating, according to the president’s statement.

Following an outcry over a wave of femicides the previous year, President Ramaphosa said South Africa was one of the “most dangerous places in the world to be a woman”.

Mr Shoba’s case has been postponed to March 1, when a formal bail application will be heard.

Gender-based crime crisis in South Africa

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