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Helping hand who got June through her ordeal

10 July 2016 - 02:02 By MONICA LAGANPARSAD

Reeva’s mom, June Steenkamp, and ANCWL stalwart Jacqui Mofokeng speak about the bond that grew between them during the trial of Oscar Pistorius"I could never repay her for what she has done for us. She is a part of our family. She's an amazing, powerful woman. She's a leader," June Steenkamp says of her friend, Jacqui Mofokeng.Steenkamp has gone through hell since her daughter Reeva was murdered by Oscar Pistorius on Valentine's Day three years ago.On Wednesday, "fallen hero" Pistorius began his six-year sentence for the murder. The 29-year-old former paralympian hugged his sobbing sister Aimee Pistorius as he was led away from the dock after Judge Thokozile Maspia handed down sentence. Pistorius's defence team said they would not be appealing the sentence while prosecution had not given any indication if they intend on lodging an appeal.Steenkamp said things would have been a lot worse for her and her husband Barry without the rock-solid support of ANC Women's League provincial spokeswoman Mofokeng.While Steenkamp endured the agony of reliving her daughter's last hours, Mofokeng sat beside her in the High Court in Pretoria: her confidante, protector and best friend.She shielded Steenkamp from the hordes of journalists and the glare of the cameras after Pistorius was sentenced to six years in prison. And Mofokeng was the one to speak on behalf of the Steenkamps after Judge Thokozile Masipa handed down her sentence.Outraged, Mofokeng said Pistorius's sentence was an ''insult to women and to the Steenkamp family"."It's an emotional blow. We are saddened," she told reporters.The women's friendship grew from this tragedy, but June said they had been destined to meet.Mofokeng, a champion of women's rights, first met June during Pistorius's bail application. Mofokeng had been tasked with lending support to the family of the 29-year-old law graduate and model.She made contact with Reeva's cousin Kim Martin, who told her that her aunt and uncle struggled financially and might not be able to attend the trial."The case started in 2014 and I was burying my sister that weekend. But as the chairperson of the [Progressive Women's Movement of South Africa] we rallied to see how best we could help them with accommodation," said Mofokeng.The two women would spend lunch hours together during the trial. "When I realised you couldn't go out with June because of the media, I asked the court manager if he could please arrange a small room for us, which he did. June would bring a basket of food packed by the B&B where she was staying. They are more than friends. I regard them as family. We understand each other's pain "We bonded. I wanted to know more about Reeva, and June told me about herself and how she grew up in England, and came to South Africa and married Barry," said Mofokeng.In front of the TV cameras and the Pistorius family, June was stony-faced and stoic. But when she was alone with her family and Mofokeng, June was at her most vulnerable, often breaking down.It was not long before Mofokeng became part of their family, spending time at their Port Elizabeth home. When she was invited to the scattering of Reeva's ashes, Mofokeng stayed with the Steenkamps.In May, when she returned to PE for the ANC's election manifesto launch, she and her friends dropped in on them at their pub, The Barking Spider."Barry could be so open with us. He said to us, 'You girls gave me strength to be in court.' June and I talk about everything under the sun on WhatsApp every week. I feel part of their extended family," said Mofokeng.June has also become a strong supporter for families of murdered daughters.While the cameras zoomed in on the trial of her murdered daughter, in the courtroom next door the Khumalo family were suffering the same heartache.Their pregnant daughter Zanele Khumalo was also murdered by her boyfriend."We met the Khumalos in the corridors of the court and we would meet in the room upstairs of the court during intermission. We shared the same pain," said June.June is keeping her daughter's memory alive through the Reeva Rebecca Foundation, which will launch on August 19, Reeva's birthday. Mofokeng is a board member."The foundation will be my life's work. I want to raise money to help abused women. The foundation will also give a bursary each year to a law student studying family law. They will become Reeva's girls," said June.While June said her heart would never heal from the loss of Reeva, she speaks proudly of Mofokeng's daughter Thato - born a month before Reeva .Had Reeva lived, the two young women might never have known one another, but Reeva's death has forever bonded their mothers. Steenkamps step in to help grieving parent Unemployed and desperate to attend the murder trial of his late daughter's boyfriend in Port Elizabeth, Freddie Sithole found support from Barry and June Steenkamp.His daughter Tshepiso was 18 and a student at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University when she was murdered by her boyfriend in June 2011.Sithole, from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, contacted ANC Women's League spokeswoman Jacqui Mofokeng for help.The league paid for his flight to Port Elizabeth, and the Steenkamps took care of him."When I came to PE for two weeks of the trial, they paid for me to stay at a B&B and for food and everything. Every morning Barry would fetch me and take me to court and come fetch me in the afternoon. We would spend the evenings together before they took me back to the B&B."In October 2014, when he returned for the final leg of the trial, Sithole stayed with the Steenkamps."They are more than friends. I regard them as family. We understand each other's pain. When I think about my daughter, the tears just roll down my cheeks."This pain will never go away," said Sithole.He is in regular contact with the Steenkamps and was heartbroken when Barry took the stand.Sithole also testified during his daughter's trial. "It just brought back all those painful memories."His daughter's killer, Mutshutshu Muvhango, was sentenced to 15 years."I'm so angry that Oscar only got six years. I'm not saying he must get 30 years, but at least 10 would have been fair," he said.Said June: "Freddie and Barry really formed an attachment ... they are going through the same pain."laganparsadm@sundaytimes.co.za..

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