South Africa has come under international attention for its recent spike in femicide rates. Within just two weeks after the 27 March pandemic lockdown, more than 148 people have been arrested for committing gender-based crimes. The South African President, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his apologies and condolences in an open letter to the nation and the victims’ families.
However, despite acknowledging that these acts are a “national crisis”, crime rates are still increasing. Numerous bodies have been found as lockdown restrictions eased, beginning with the discovery of the body of 34-year-old Ms Zilandile Xulu on a cliff. An autopsy revealed that she had been asphyxiated and suffered knife wounds.
Less than a week later, Ms Tshegofatso Pule was reported to be missing. She was found four days later at a Johannesburg suburb, hanging from a tree with multiple stab wounds. She was eight months pregnant. This sparked an outrage, and the hashtag #JusticeForTshego trended on twitter. While the perpetrator has been arrested, more bodies were discovered in the weeks that followed.
Another hashtag that surfaced online was #JusticeForNaledi, as she fell victim to murder. This raised the tally to three within the month alone. The murderer turned himself in, admitting that he had butchered Naledi Phangindawo.
AND A POTENTIAL SERIAL KILLER?
While the murders mentioned were carried out in silo, investigations are being carried out in the South Coast region of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) as two more bodies have been found recently. This case was first noted in April as the corpses of Akhona Gumede and Nosipho Gumede were discovered in April, before a third body, belonging to Nelisiwe Dube, was identified in July.
However, in the ensuing nightmare, two more bodies were found recently in a farm. While the fifth decomposing body has not been identified, the fourth was recognised to be Zama Chiliza. This caused mounting pressure for the police department as people wanted justice for the innocent. The police interrogated two suspects, but the lack of evidence meant that no charges could be made. All these tensions sparked anger, as a crowd of protesters formed outside Mzumbe Magistrate’s Court in Mthwalume on 17 August
While the South African Police Service (SAPS) are not ruling out the possibility that a serial killer may be behind this, they are not jumping to conclusions. However, if this is the work of a serial killer, then it would mark the second time that KZN has encountered one within a decade; the first being Thozamile Taki, better known as the Sugarcane Killer.