Family of slain Soshanguve pupil Palesa Malatji says she was 'failed by the system'
The family of slain 17-year-old Palesa Malatji on Monday said they had pinned their hopes on her uplifting them from poverty so they could have a brighter future.
Their dreams were shattered when the matric pupil from Ntsako Secondary school in Soshanguve, Tshwane, was murdered on Thursday.
She was reportedly making her way home from school.
Her body was found next to Echibini secondary school in Soshanguve. Evidence suggested she had been sexually violated.
The crime scene is only a few metres from the police station and a few kilometres from her home.
Her uncle and family spokesperson, Thabiso Malatji, said the family was devastated by her brutal killing. Palesa was the eldest of three children.
“As a family, we are in pain. We have lost someone who was going to take us out of poverty. Her dream was to be a pharmacist or a doctor, depending on her pass. This kind of death is painful,” he said.
Police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Nevhuhulwi said a murder case had been opened and no arrests had been made yet.
She said police were investigating and following up on any leads they receive.
Palesa had a bright future.Thabiso Malatji
Learning and teaching were disrupted on Monday morning at the school and neighbouring schools as pupils were ready to march to Rietgat police station to seek justice for her murder.
A few members of the community held demonstrations at the police station in the afternoon.
Gauteng Education MEC Matome Chiloane visited the school and the family.
Thabiso said on the day of the incident, his son had told him a boy had said to him he had heard a voice while passing a spot. He allegedly threw a stone and ran away.
When Palesa failed to arrive home at the usual time, the family knew something was wrong and started looking for her.
She normally got back home between 4pm and 5pm.
“It can never get to 5.30pm without her arriving home. When 5.30pm came and went, I started wondering what was happening with her. She wasn't fond of the streets, that is why we knew something is not right immediately when we saw that she was not home.
“I went to the police station to ask for a police van to escort me to the school thinking maybe she had collapsed and to also go where the boys spoke about. SAPS didn't help me. I took my car and drove to her school and clinic. I went everywhere, until later at about midnight which is when the police came with their van,” he said.
Thabiso said he blames the system for the incident.
“I had to take a risk and take a car to go look for her.”
He said the crime scene shows she struggled.
Thabiso said Palesa had a bright future.
“A very bright girl ... She didn't have friends. Her friends were books.”
He said the schoolteachers had left school early to attend a union gathering and had released all but the matric pupils early.
“I am blaming the whole system. Palesa had a bright future. We don't know who would do such a thing to her. Surprisingly, where we found her it is not the route which she normally uses. Maybe someone dragged her and took her there and raped her,” said Thabiso.
He said his sister, Palesa's mother, was struggling to come to terms with what had happened.
“She isn't coping. You can imagine after carrying your child for nine months, struggling to take her to school and they cut her life short. I can't rest either. I can't sleep,” said Thabiso.
He said he has been visiting the crime scene every day to try to make sense of what happened.
Describing the state they found Palesa in, he said she was still dressed in her uniform, but it was obvious she was raped.
Her textbooks were nowhere to be found.
“We found her shoes in a different spot. It means she moved from one place to the other one. Maybe she was trying to find help,” he said.
Marks found on her body showed she had been strangled.
Palesa’s close friend, Calvin Mentoor, said the last time he had spoken to her was the day she was murdered.
“Please come to me tomorrow morning.” He said these were her last words to him when he last saw her on Thursday.
The 18-year-old described Palesa as a kind and loving person.
“She was a fighter, I will miss a lot of things about her. She was someone I could cry to, she would give you a shoulder to cry on. She had this motherly love and a friendship love at the same time,” he said.
He said she wanted to be a doctor.
“I hope they find those perpetrators.”
Another friend, who cannot be named as she is a minor, said Palesa had plans for herself and her mother.
“She said she wanted to build her mother a house,” said the 17-year-old.
Some of her friends said they last saw her on Thursday after they finished attending the physical science class.
“We last saw her walking in front of us, alone as usual,” they said.
After the incident, the pupils have expressed concern for their safety as they often get home late after extra classes.
“We are scared because as matrics we come out late. There are no people patrolling. We leave this place at 4pm. We are scared,” said the pupils.
Addressing the pupils at the school, Chiloane said the department was hard at work to ensure their safety.
“We as the department we are going to beef up security in our schools. As from tomorrow, we are going to have security in schools at least to make sure that pupils at school feel safe,” he said.
Chiloane said wardens will be roped in to assist in ensuring the safety of pupils at school and after study.
“We will make sure the perpetrator will never see the light. The police have committed that this case is number one. The case has moved to the provincial office and will receive priority,” he said.
Community leader Banele Moyo said the community was concerned about the safety of pupils.
“I am concerned that you will raise a child until he is 17 or 18 years old and his or her life is taken so easily as Palesa's life was taken. Palesa's life was taken so easily, and it could have been avoided in so many ways if we could have had a governing body that was responsible, that was accountable, because the main street that Palesa died on is messed up. There are bushes everywhere, there is no lighting. When there is load-shedding it's even worse,” he said.
The student organisation Cosas submitted a memorandum to the department and the police.
The group's provincial secretary Boipelo Moleko said they are demanding police patrol schools during and after hours.
“The department must try to come up with means to get ways of how they teach learners without getting them in danger,” he said.
The family said they are waiting for a postmortem before they can start organising her Palesa's funeral which they hope can happen on Saturday.
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