South Africa

Man bust dragging woman's lifeless body charged with three murders

Man bust dragging woman's lifeless body charged with three murders

A 32-year-old Wolseley man, Siyamnkela Sobambela, who is accused of killing three women in the rural Western Cape town, has been described as a quiet person who kept to himself - but who was often in the company of young girls.

Sobambela appeared in the Wolseley magistrate's court on Tuesday after he was bust dragging a 20-year-old woman’s body in an open field in Pine Valley informal settlement on Saturday night.

After his arrest, the police made another gruesome discovery in the same area on Sunday — they were alerted to a shallow grave, which led to the discovery of a woman’s body. Another shallow grave was later discovered.

National Prosecuting Authority spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said more charges were likely to be added as the investigation continued. Sobambela's matter has been postponed to December 9 for further investigation, while he remains in custody.

Karriem Adams, deputy mayor of the Witzenberg municipality, into which Wolseley falls, said the three murders had left the small town “shocked”.

“Never before did this town experience something like this. It’s something unheard of in Wolseley,” he said.

Adams said since the discovery of the three bodies at the weekend, local leaders have been trying to quell the storm after locals burnt down the caravan where Sobambela lived.

When Adams visited the informal settlement with Western Cape police commissioner Lt-Gen Yolisa Matakata and local leaders, the community described Sobambela as a gentle guy who had a strict routine — “the kind of guy who would go to work and come home every day”.

“But community members raised concerns about his relations with young women. Young girls were apparently often at his premises, and the community knew about it. They told us that he used to lure young girls and give them money, but people never perceived him dangerous because of his personality,” said Adams.

When we were there, people were angry and called him a wolf in a sheep’s skin.
Karriem Adams

“When we were there, people were angry and called him a ‘wolf in a sheep’s skin'.  He apparently lived alone and no one really knew much about him.”

Adams said Sobambela's caravan was on a piece of land on the outskirts of Pine Valley. The land was illegally occupied by squatters about three years ago, and today is home to more than 100 families, mostly Sotho-speaking.

He said residents of Pine Valley have been intimidating local Sotho people who live in the informal settlement, threatening to chase them and all "foreigners" out of the squatter camp. They believed that Sobambela was Sotho-speaking.

Adams said it had been tense in the past few days, with people finding it difficult to sleep.

“The community is furious, but we’ve been doing everything to calm the situation down, and we’ve talked to people about the dangers of acting out of anger.

“The burning of his caravan for instance was not a very good move as it potentially destroyed DNA evidence that could be useful to the police,” he said.  

Matakata, who visited the informal settlement on Monday, has described the murders as “shocking” to the quiet little town.

“The discovery of three bodies shocked the police in the province hence the [commissioner’s] visit,” said police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa.

She said Matakata’s visit was prompted by the urge to understand the underlying issues.

“It is on that basis that she received a briefing from the [Wolseley] station management. Second, she was appraised on the status of the investigation to ensure it progresses well.”

Matakata also checked the geographical layout of the informal settlement as well as socio-economic factors that contribute to crime. Some of the issues that left her concerned include poor lighting of the area, a lack of ablution facilities, high unemployment and substance abuse.

Matakata promised to make a follow-up visit where she hoped to “interact with the community and local leadership”.