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A mother’s grief – ‘My dearest Bokgabo, they may have taken away parts of your body but your spirit lives forever’

A mother’s grief – ‘My dearest Bokgabo, they may have taken away parts of your body but your spirit lives forever’
Tsholofelo Poo (mother of Bokgabo Poo) at Benoni Magistrate's Court on 24 October 2022 in Benoni, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

The family and Wattville community of four-year-old Bokgabo Diseko Poo, who was mutilated and murdered by an alleged rape offender out on bail, have accused the South African justice system of failing to protect children from child murderers and rapists. They have insisted on harsher consequences for crimes against children.

“My dearest Bokgabo, if I had known that your stay in this world will be short and you will gain wings I would still choose you. Even if God had told me that loving you with all my heart and soul would shatter my world I would still choose you. I choose you over and over again as my own. I miss you every day my baby and you are too beautiful to stay away from my memory. They may have taken away parts of your body they needed but your spirit lives forever. I have gained a powerful ancestor in you.”

These were the words of Bokgabo Diseko Poo’s grieving mom, Tsholofelo Poo, as she described her model daughter and only child in her eulogy at the four-year-old’s memorial service, at an overflowing congregation at the Watteville Daycare Centre on Wednesday. The memorial was attended by the greater community of Watteville, as well as faith-based organisations, Operation Dudula and civil society groups.

Addressing the congregation, Bokgabo’s grandmother Lilian Poo had this to say:

“As the Poo family, we never thought that one day we will have to bury our child at this young age. We have seen such gruesome acts on television and have never thought it would to us. Bokgabo had a bright future ahead of her. We saw a doctor, a teacher, a minister and a lot of good things from her but someone decided to just come and take that away from us without any notice and we still don’t know why.”

Irvin Ndlovu

Irvin Ndlovu (father of Bokgabo Poo) at Benoni Magistrate’s Court on 24 October 2022 in Benoni, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

Wattville’s spiralling crime

Community task team member Bhoyo Dlamini acknowledged how much Bokgabo’s death had touched the community of Wattville.

“There is a lot of crime in the community of Wattville and the death of Bokgabo has revealed that. The downside is that we don’t even have a functional police station and officers to apprehend the criminals. In our capacity as the community task team and the Community Policing Forum of Wattevile, we went all out to find the suspect and gave him up to the police. That should tell you about the kind of police we have here,” said Dlamini.

He continued, “Wattevillle is full of evil we plead with the pastors to pray with us and pray for us to fight it and plead with the community to work with us to ensure the safety of our children and everyone in our community. As a father, I am deeply hurt by what happened to Bokgabo as this could have happened to my own biological [child]. I always wonder how the perpetrator felt or where their consciousness was when he was doing this to a defenceless child.” 

What happened to Bokgabo?

Bokgabo Poo is one of the latest casualties of brutal crimes against children in South Africa.

Poo went missing from Wattville in Benoni on 9 October. Some of her mutilated body parts were found in Tamboville last week while the rest of her remains have yet to be found. 

Murder: Ntokozo Khulekani Zikhali

Ntokozo Khulekani Zikhali appears at Benoni Magistrate’s Court on 24 October 2022 in Benoni, South Africa. It is reported that the 30-year-old suspect faces of kidnapping, rape, murder, defeating the ends of justice, and violating a corpse and has another pending case of rape against him. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

Her alleged perpetrator — Ntokozo Khulekani Zikhali — was arrested in Boksburg North, four days after Poo went missing after CCTV footage captured at a nearby shop showed the four-year-old girl approaching the shop with Zikhali pictured close by. 

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Zikhali allegedly fled to Boksburg when he learnt about the existence of the footage circulating on social media.

Zikhali, 28, made a brief first appearance in the Benoni Magistrates Court on 17 October on charges of kidnapping, rape, murder, defeating the ends of justice, and violation of a corpse.

The court heard Zikhali had a pending case of rape involving a 9-year-old girl, stemming from August last year.

On Monday 24 October, Zikhali again appeared at Benoni Magistrates Court for both cases. The matter of Poo was postponed to 14 November 2022. Meanwhile, her burial has been halted to allow time for the rest of her remains to be found.

South Africa’s justice system ‘failing’ our children

Bokgabo is just one of several cases of child murder to rock the country this year. 

In May, the mutilated body of six-year-old Bontle Mashiyane was found in a shallow grave a few metres from her home after she went missing in April in Mganduzweni near Whiteriver in Mpumalanga.

At least four children were killed in less than a week last month in the Western Cape as reported by EWN.

Presenting his quarter-one crime statistics for 2022/2023 in August, Police Minister Bheki Cele highlighted that violent crime against children in South Africa was at alarmingly high and unacceptable levels.

549 children aged 17 and under were murdered between January and June this year — 243 occurred between April and June. At least 1,670 children were involved in assault and Gender Based Homicide cases over this period.

According to Dr Shaheda Omar, director of the Teddy Bear Foundation, South Africa needs legislative reform focussed on ensuring that children get better parental care while also tightening the grip on offenders.

Action Society, a civil rights organisation established in 2019 to act in the interest of the public through active advocacy for policy change to fight for a reformed justice system, is holding the government accountable for failing to protect South African citizens and is demanding that accused sex offenders should be denied bail.

Tshepi Mmekwa, Action Centre coordinator at Action Society says what happened to Poo was “atrocious”.

“The DNA backlog, delay in taking DNA samples of convicted offenders and the non-existing National Register of Sex Offenders all contributed to the death of Bokgabo and most of the 548 other children murdered this year. Action Society will be lobbying for a change in procedure regarding sex offenders. No one with a previous conviction or pending case of a sexual offence against them should be allowed to be released on bail,” said Mmekwa. DM


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