Hazel Nonkululeko Phakathi has been missing for two months and 17 days. Phakathi was last seen on Saturday, November 9. She is reported to have parked her car at the home she shared with her estranged husband in Witpoortjie, west of Johannesburg, and disappeared without trace.
On Wednesday, Mandla and Johanna Phakathi cut lonely figures in their home in Chiawelo, Soweto. The elderly couple said the disappearance of their daughter had taken its toll on them, especially Johanna, whose health had suffered tremendously.
“I have been unwell lately, and in and out of hospital. This is a very uneasy period for us. While we are hopeful that she is still alive, all we want is closure,” said Johanna.
They last saw their daughter at a family gathering in Mofolo, Soweto. Afterwards, Phakathi, 43, drove her mother and aunt, Salome Mawela, to their homes before proceeding to Witpoortjie.
“It has been a difficult two months for us. When we spent time with her at the gathering in November, we didn’t think it would be our last time seeing her. We didn’t think it would be the last time we’d hear her laugh,” said Johanna.
Phakathi and her ex-husband, Moses Shomang, were living in the same house, but not as a couple. Shomang reportedly heard her car drive into the yard but didn’t wake up to check if she had entered the house.
The colonel’s family have urged the police to investigate Shomang and alleged he was abusive towards Phakathi.
Johanna said they realised her daughter was missing when her phone went to voicemail throughout Sunday, a day after the family gathering.
She went to report her missing but learnt that her ex-husband had got there first. However, the police refused to divulge details of his statement or case number.
She added that her daughter had told them that Shomang was allegedly trying to force his way back into the relationship.
“She tried to tell him to leave, but he was resisting. They have been divorced for nine years now and were married for five,” she said.
Mawela, who joined Phakathi’s parents, described the colonel as a warm-hearted person who was always smiling.
“She cared deeply about the people she loved the most and always wanted to make sure that everyone was okay,” said Mawela, who questioned why Shomang was still at her home.
The family said the police had not been forthcoming with information on the investigation into Phakathi’s disappearance except that they were investigating. They claimed that Shomang was taken in for questioning and released.
Shomang said he was also worried about his ex-wife’s disappearance and referred the Sunday Independent to Mawela.
“I am obviously not okay myself about her disappearance, but I have nothing else to say. Please speak to Salome Mawela, who is Nonkululeko’s aunt. She is the family spokesperson,” said Shomang.
SAPS Gauteng provincial head in corporate communication Brigadier Mathapelo Peters confirmed that an investigation was under way.
“Police are investigating and also appeal to anyone who may have information that could assist in locating the missing person to call the SAPS Crime Stop Number 08600 10111 or by giving a tip-off on the MySAPS app,” she said.