As the country mourns the murder of University of Cape Town student Uyinene Mrwetyana, only a handful of people from a village in Dutywa in the Eastern Cape know of how Aviwe Wellem was found by two boys on Saturday morning — raped and stabbed to death in her bed.
Her uncle, Siphetho Platyi, said the door was locked but no key was in sight, and a knife had been left at the scene.
“It’s unlike her to sleep in until 10 in the morning so umakhulu sent a little boy to wake her up. When the boy arrived, the front door of the house was open but the bedroom door where she slept was locked,” Platyi said. “He knocked and there was no answer. He peered into the keyhole and could see someone sleeping on the bed.”
He said that when the boy could not open the door he went to call his neighbour, who removed a pane of glass from the bedroom window to open it. The two boys gained entry and found blood and a knife.
“She was raped. I know that because of the way she was found. But that is not what killed her. She had stab wounds on her body and abdomen. I think the one that must have killed her was the one closest to her heart. The other two were on her abdomen,” he said.
According to Platyi, the perpetrator — or perpetrators — had left the knife in the bedroom and had taken the television and tossed it into the bushes across the road. “I don’t know if they were trying to make it seem like a robbery. It doesn’t make sense. The knife was taken by the police so we hope that will give us some lead.”
Wellem, 21, was a devout Christian in matric at Jongilanga Senior Secondary School. She was an orphan brought up by her maternal grandmother and then her aunt, Nokhanyiso Mbokoma, in Timane village.
Mbokoma said: “She was happy to be in grade 12, had great friends and was looking forward to starting her life after matric. She has had a lot of troubles in her life, but now she knew what she wanted to do with it.”
Wellem was living in a rented room near her school, to cope with the hours needed for the matric year. At the beginning of August, she was asked by another aunt, who lives in Cape Town, to cook for the workers repairing the veranda of the house where she was staying. A few days after she arrived, her school friend Amandla Maleki joined her.
She said: “I don’t want to believe this but every day I go to class I see her empty desk. It has been hard.”
Maleki stayed with Wellem for more than two weeks. The young women would wake up, cook for the workers and leave for school. In the afternoons they would prepare the evening meal.
Maleki said: “After everyone had eaten we would tidy up, watch a bit of TV then go and study. We aren’t really outgoing people so we spent a lot of time at home. I saw Aviwe at school on the Friday that she was killed and that was the last time I saw her alive. Maybe she would not have died if I had stayed with her for a few more days.”
It is understood that the workers were from another village and had slept in the same house as the two young women.
“They never said anything out of the ordinary to us. They were pleasant and actually even avoided conversation sometimes. I don’t know if they could have done that to her,’” said Maleki.
Mbokoma says that her niece was strong and would have put up quite a fight the night she died.
“It is only Aviwe, God and the perpetrators who know what happened there that night. This community is getting more violent and we don’t know where to turn to anymore. Aviwe was such a beautiful person, so many people loved her,” she said.
Maleki added that Wellem loved to sing “even though she was terrible at it and every time we told her she would laugh and tell us to teach her”.
Platyi said they were still waiting for the post-mortem result and information from the police about the progress of the investigation.
The Dutywa police spokesperson, Captain Jackson Manatha, confirmed a case of murder had been opened and investigations were underway.
The murder has rocked Timane village. According to the spokesperson for the department of education in the Eastern Cape, Malibongwe Mtima, the department has organised counselling for the learners at the school, in particular for the matriculants who are preparing for their exams.