Grandmother murdered: community furious at police response

Mpophomeni residents claim police failed to investigate earlier break-in and threat by suspect

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Phot of people protesting
Residents of Mpophemeni protested against police. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane

The community of Mpophomeni location in Emagwababeni, Pietermaritzburg protested outside Howick Magistrates’ court on Wednesday, demanding no bail for a 39-year-old man accused of raping and strangling a grandmother who, according to her family, was over 100 years old.

Girley Maphumulo was found by neighbours lying helplessly on her kitchen floor on Sunday night. She was still breathing at the time. She had strangle marks on her neck, said her granddaughter Minenhle Maphumulo.

The suspect made his first appearance in court on Wednesday. He faced charges of breaking and entering, rape and murder. The suspect requested that he be able to make a confession. He also asked that he not be granted bail. He said he did not feel safe because residents were angry.

On Monday residents flocked to the court and stoned it. They were not happy with the way police handled the case. Police used teargas and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters.

According to Minenhle the suspect is well-known and lives in the same location as her family. “He came on 21 January when gogo was alone. He raided the house and stole the money that was in the house. Gogo told us that he came and raided the house. On that day he asked gogo if she had ever been raped. We looked for him and we could not find him. We went to the police station and reported the matter. Police said we must look for him ourselves,” said Minenhle.

On Sunday night the suspect allegedly broke into the Maphumulo house. According to Minenhle he gained access through a window. He switched off the lights and went to her grandmother’s room.

“My sister Zinhle and her friend were sleeping. He raped gogo on her bed. Zinhle woke up when she heard gogo screaming for help. While gogo was screaming for help he strangled Zinhle. She passed out. He went to Zinhle’s friend and tried to strangle her but she managed to run out of the house. Neighbours came in to help. Gogo was lying on the kitchen floor. They helped her to the sofa. She asked for water and died,” said Minenhle.

The family lives close to the police station. Minenhle said they waited hours for police to arrive to the scene.

Among the protesting residents was Sipho Ndlovu. Ndlovu lives next door to the Maphumulo family. He said the community was unhappy with the police, accusing them of failing to take the report of the previous home invasion seriously. “What did they do, nothing? Instead they told the family to look for the suspect themselves. What is that?” asked Ndlovu.

South African Police Service spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said the allegations that the family was turned away when they came to report the matter were unfounded. But she also said they would be thoroughly investigated. She said a post-mortem would be conducted to determine whether Maphumulo was raped before she was killed.

Ward councillor Thulani Mthalane urged residents to calm down. He said he was aware that the community was angry. He pleaded that they let the police do their work. “We are saddened by the murder of an older citizen by a younger male. We are shocked. We were fond of gogo Maphumulo. She was an elder resident who was respected by the community. We have never had such an incident in Mpophomeni,” he said.

Gogo’s son Enoch Maphumulo said they had lost a darling. “She was our pillar of strength”, he said. “We were celebrating her life everyday. She has lived for 107 years. That was a blessing. We lost a mother and a legend of our family,” said Enoch.

The suspect will make his second appearance on 9 February.

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TOPICS:  Policing Violence

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