LELONA Fufu was the first person in her family to go to university and her mother, Bongeka, was brimming with pride as she joined hundreds of others at Rhodes University’s graduation ceremony last week.
But, what should have been one of Bongeka’s proudest days turned into a nightmare when she heard her middle child had been murdered.
Now, as the Fufu family battles to come to terms with the brutal murder of their loved one, they are also dealing with the guilt of not being able to protect her.
Lelona, 23, was murdered on her way to graduation on Thursday. She left home by taxi at about 2.30pm to go to a hitchhiking point in Motherwell.
She was meant to collect her graduation gown before the shop closed at 5pm.
“The whole thing is still very difficult to talk about. She had to go to Grahamstown before us. That’s where we made our first mistake,” Bongeka said yesterday.
“I would usually go with her but on that day I had to stay behind a little too late, so she went ahead, alone.”
The family were meant to join Lelona later and tried to contact her several times before leaving Port Elizabeth.
“Twice, somebody picked up, and we heard music on the other end of the line but no ‘hello’. Then it [the service provider] started telling us it could not connect us anymore,” Bongeka said.
Bongeka, Lelona’s father Ndoyisile John, her two sisters Akhona, 25, and Lelethu, 20, and grandmother, Sylvia, arrived in Grahamstown that night and rushed to the clothing shop to try and find her. When they got there, the owners gave them the still-uncollected graduation gown. “That’s when I knew something very bad had happened,” Bongeka said.
It was not until the ceremony, though, that Bongeka had her suspicions confirmed.
“One of the ushers at the hall came to tell us he’d gone to her seat and looked for her. It was empty. She never came to the ceremony.”
Lelona’s body was found with multiple stab wounds on the Addo Road near the old Coega Hotel the following morning.
Bongeka said her daughter was well respected for her academic achievements.
“She was so gifted and successful. Whenever she was gone from the house for too long, we would call her to ask her to come back home soon.”
Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile sent his condolences to the family yesterday and spoke out against recent incidents of violence against women.
“I wish to convey my deepest condolences to the Fufu family for the tragic and senseless death of their beloved daughter. As the municipality we are deeply shocked and outraged by this senseless act of violence.
“We are further enraged by the recent spate of violent crimes that have taken place in Nelson Mandela Bay. Not too long ago we had the shooting of two on-duty police officers, resulting in the death of Constable Thandiswa Bambiso.
“Violent acts of this nature have no place in our society and should be condemned.”