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MURDER OF A 4-YEAR-OLD

Community angered after suspect acquitted of killing Bokgabo — days before being sentenced to life for another crime

Community angered after suspect acquitted of killing Bokgabo — days before being sentenced to life for another crime
Wattville residents gathered outside the Benoni Magistrates’ Court to voice their disappointment and protest against the acquittal Ntokozo Zikhali, who was accused of murdering Bokgabo Poo (4). (Photo: Michelle Banda)

In a case that sparked outrage in South Africa, Ntokozo Zikhali was acquitted of the murder, rape and mutilation of four-year-old Bokgabo Diseko Poo. However, he has now been sentenced to life imprisonment for raping a nine-year-old girl in August 2021.

Many in South Africa have expressed outrage and disbelief at the recent acquittal of Ntokozo Zikhali on charges related to the mutilation and murder of four-year-old Bokgabo Diseko Poo.

Evidence in court included security footage depicting Zikhali luring the child from Masoleng Park in Wattville, being the last person seen with her, and a rejected confession.

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Ntokozo Zikhali appears at the Benoni Magistrates’ Court on 14 November 2022. (Photo: Gallo Images / OJ Koloti)

The court found him not guilty on Monday, 7 August. Gauteng National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) spokesperson Lumka Mahanjana said the State had relied on evidence that was inconclusive and was thus ruled inadmissible.

Zikhali faced a range of charges including kidnapping, rape, murder, defeating the ends of justice and violation of a corpse. The verdict has left the victim’s family and the Wattville community disillusioned and disheartened. They feel that the investigation was tainted from the start.

In response to the verdict, Wattville residents gathered outside the Benoni Magistrates’ Court to voice their disappointment and protest against the outcome.  

Inside the courtroom, Zikhali was on trial for raping a nine-year-old girl in August 2021, a case in which he had been released on bail before being accused of Bokgabo’s murder.

On Thursday, he was found guilty of raping the nine-year-old and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Bokgabo’s father Irvin Ndlovu had mixed feelings about this outcome.

Life imprisonment for Zikhali is something and we are quite excited about that. However, the call for justice for my daughter Bokgabo continues. The last few months have been very difficult for us as a family and the community, who have been supporting us since day one.

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Angry Wattville residents protest outside the Benoni Magistrates’ Court. (Photo: Michelle Banda)

“We were hopeful that maybe the accused was going to be convicted, which would give us some form of relief but on Monday the judge ruled he was actually not guilty [of Bokgabo’s murder]. Someone who went on to kidnap and rape my child while on bail, we are told he is no danger to society? If not him, then who did? He was the last person seen with my child alive. I feel betrayed by the justice system in my country.”

‘From now on we are prepared to fight’

Tsholofelo Poo, Bokgabo’s mother, said a renewed investigation into the case had given her a glimmer of hope.

“I’m glad to say that we have also received communication from the commissioner of police that there will be … new people to … investigate the case. We are yet to sit in a meeting this afternoon to discuss what went wrong with the investigations because we feel that the investigating officer who was handling the case did a very poor job and handed it over to the prosecutor who failed dismally to represent it.”

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

“With the lawyers and many efforts that everyone is making to assist with the case, I believe that we will finally get justice for Bokgabo. From now on we are prepared to fight for justice. I will park the emotions away for now and be hands-on and know all the details of the case to the core so that when we go to court again we get the justice Bokgabo deserves,” Poo said. 

Bokgabo Poo disappeared from a Benoni park where she had been playing with friends on 9 October 2022. Her mutilated body was found in Tamboville on 17 October 2022. DM

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