WRAP: The main arguments in the Tshegofatso Pule murder trial ahead of judgment

The family of slain Tshegofatso Pule is waiting with bated breath to hear whether her horrific death would see justice.

A mourner holds a placard demanding justice for Tshegofatso Pule at her funeral in Meadowlands, Soweto. The murdered 28-year-old was laid to rest on 11 June 2020. Picture: Kayleen Morgan/EWN

WARNING: The following wrap contains graphic details of Tshegofatso Pule’s death.

JOHANNESBURG - The family of slain 28-year-old Tshegofatso Pule is waiting with bated breath to hear whether her horrific death will see justice.

Pule, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was murdered and hanged from a tree in Durban Deep in June 2020.

“We can say justice is within reach. We will only celebrate once the guilty verdict has been handed down. For now it’s difficult to tell,” said family spokesperson Tumisang Katake.

For almost three months, her boyfriend and the father of her unborn baby, Ntuthuko Shoba has been tried for being the alleged mastermind behind the killing.

Judgment will be handed down in the case on Friday.

It has been one of the most grizzly and tear-jerking stories for journalists covering the story.

Shoba has maintained his innocence, telling the court how he had no reason to have her killed as he was excited about the baby.

This has been the evidence, in summary:

MUZIKAYISE MALEPHANE - The convicted triggerman

Somebody who vehemently disagreed with Shoba’s defence and who called him a liar was the man convicted of Pule’s murder – Muzikayise Malephane.

Malephane was the state’s key witness after striking a deal with prosecutors that saw him receive an effective 20 years behind bars.

Despite writing three different statements before his conviction, Malephane’s story has been rather linear.

He said Shoba wanted the mother of his unborn baby dead because her pregnancy posed a threat to his relationship. At the time Shoba was in a long-term relationship and even though no lobola had been paid, he and his partner were considered engaged.

According to Malephane, Shoba stood to benefit from an R8 million life cover payout from his fiancé as her mother passed away months before.

He said if Shoba’s partner knew that Pule was pregnant, she would simply leave him, costing him financially.

To the courtroom’s horror, Malephane said Shoba wanted a heavily pregnant Pule to be hanged at the Maraisburg Bridge in a staged suicide.

But he decided to drive her to a veld in Noordgesig where he shot her and then drove her lifeless body just 500 metres from his home in Durban Deep where he hanged her.

NTUTHUKO SHOBA – The father of Pule’s child and alleged mastermind

Throughout his trial Shoba maintained an unbothered demeanor. His interactions with his lawyer and family gave nothing away. Each day, he sat in the dock in a tailored suit, evidence file in hand, taking notes.

Even though they were outnumbered by those in support of Pule’s family, at least one member of Shoba’s family sat in the gallery also taking notes.

In a risky move, the former Johannesburg Stock Exchange IT man took the witness stand, opening him up to scrutiny by the state but also giving him the opportunity to set the record straight.

He denied knowing anything about Pule’s murder, saying that while he knew Malephane was a car thief he never thought of him as a hitman.

From the cellphone records acquired by the state, it was clear that Shoba called Malephane multiple times before and on the day that Pule was killed - even visiting him mere hours before the murder.

Malephane said this was to plan the murder, but Shoba insisted he merely wanted cigarettes from him as he was selling them illegally during the 2020 ban.

On the night she was murdered, Shoba said Pule organised for someone to pick her up because she was annoyed by his fiancé calling him.

Despite knowing Malephane’s vehicle and having seen him just hours before, Shoba said he did not see that he was the driver of the vehicle that would lead Pule to her death.

THREE MINUTES OF MYSTERY

What acting Judge Stuart Wilson believes from video footage presented to him by the defence will largely inform his judgment of Shoba.

In the footage, Pule and Shoba can be seen walking out of the complex gate and a Jeep driven by Malephane stopping near them. Pule then walked towards the window but the video abruptly skips three minutes to when the vehicle drives away and Shoba walked back into the complex.

Shoba insisted he did not see that Malephane was the driver. Neither did he interact with him because it seemed Pule knew him.

If Wilson buys this story, then it will be assumed that Shoba did not organise the hit on Pule with Malephane, thereby vindicating him.

Court is due to begin at 10am.