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'She wanted to see the world' - friends reeling over death of UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana

02 September 2019 - 16:51 By Dan Meyer
A 42-year-old man has been charged with the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana.
A 42-year-old man has been charged with the rape and murder of Uyinene Mrwetyana.

Outside Roscommon House, where slain 19-year-old UCT student Uyinene Mrwetyana lived in Cape Town, her friends were talking in low voices, their heads bowed. 

Earlier they had learnt of her tragic fate when a 42-year-old man appeared in court, charged with rape, murder and defeating the ends of justice. 

Katlego Madumo, 19, met Mrwetyana on the first day of university. 

"She was a really holistic person, very focused," he said. "She had a lot of things planned for her future.

"I remember struggling before assignments were due, she would always come and check up on us. You could count on her. She was a genuinely fun and funny person."

He said he had hoped she would come back. 

"We had all thought she might be coming back and we were making plans for when she did. Now with this news, it’s devastating," he said. 

Tumelo Qhobela, 18, said Mrwetyana wanted to travel the world.

"She wanted to travel everywhere, she had big dreams," she said. "She should have been able to go to the post office, she should have been able to go wherever the f**k she wants."

Another friend, who had seen Mrwetyana on the day of her murder, said it would take time for the loss to sink in.

“I’m still in shock. Everybody is overwhelmed and we don’t know how to feel. I don’t know how to think she isn’t on this earth anymore."

She said Mrwetyana was always aware of her surroundings, and in the past had taken steps to ensure she did not have to walk around alone.

"She was very cautious of her surroundings," she said. "She knew this city is dangerous. She wouldn’t even go around the block by herself.

"[On the day of her murder] she came to my room to get a charger before she left the building. She didn’t say she was going anywhere. I don’t know why."

The Clareinch post office in Cape Town where Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed.
The Clareinch post office in Cape Town where Uyinene Mrwetyana was raped and killed.
Image: Dan Meyer

Only a few kilometres away, the post office where she was killed was operating as usual on Monday, with no police demarcation visible. TimesLIVE asked staff how they felt about the incident, but they said they "couldn't speak about it". 

UCT vice-chancellor Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng released a statement on Monday.

"It has shocked us to our core. It is incomprehensible that a young life, with so much potential, has been stolen from her family and our community," she said. "It is even more distressing that this horrible incident is one of many where women – young and old, and even girls – are ripped from our communities in such a violent manner."

She said changes would be discussed to ensure students were better protected and to commemorate Mtwetyana.  

"The UCT executive will be meeting urgently to discuss how we can commemorate Nene’s life and the many in our society who are affected by violence.

"We urge you to please reach out to each other and support one another in this time of immense sadness and mourning. We are preparing a memorial space on campus and will share further details shortly," said Phakeng.