Slain professor: six arrested

2009-02-23 00:00

SIX suspects, including a person close to slain Professor Samuel Jotham Zondi, were yesterday arrested in connection with his murder.

Two women and four men, aged between 19 and 34 years, were arrested during the early hours of the morning following investigations by the Pietermaritzburg organised crime unit.

Police followed a trail of credit card transactions by the suspects, who went on a shopping spree using Zondi’s credit card. According to a source close to the investigation, the starting point was that Zondi’s credit card was previously stolen by someone close to him.

Zondi allegedly found out about the unauthorised use of his card and demanded that the person pay back the amount used. It is believed the suspect confronted by Zondi was angry at being asked to pay him back.

Residents at Morya Mansions where Zondi lived and was killed, also believe that his killers would have been known to Zondi for them to gain entry into the complex, let alone his apartment.

“This is the first incident of this nature here since I moved in 2000,” said Dumsani Mthembu, who lives on the ground floor.

“Security here is tight,” he said, pointing out that the complex has barbed wire fencing at the sides and a palisade fence in front. “You can’t just enter. You have to be [let] in [by someone on the inside.”

Zondi’s next-door neighbours, a newlywed couple, said his gate was always locked. “Whoever was with him on that night must have known him because we would have heard if there was a struggle,” said the husband.

They said they were at home from around 4 pm every day last week and did not hear a thing from his apartment, which shares a wall with their bedroom.

“We didn’t even hear anyone on the staircase that night — and we hear everything, even from the first floor, because of the air vents in our bedroom.”

The arrests were made in Pietermaritzburg and Mpumalanga township, SAPS spokesman Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said in a press statement.

“PMB organised crime unit under the command of Superintendent Piet Scot and his team of detectives, arrested six people in connection with the murder of Zondi — two women aged 24 and 34 and four men aged 19, 22, 22 and 33.” He said the motive for the killing is thought to be robbery.

Melody Ndlovu, Zondi’s eldest daughter, said the family are comforted by the arrests. “We commend the police for their quick reaction and the arrests. We did not expect an arrest within a week of the murder … It is comforting to the family to know that the doers of evil are behind bars.”

Zondi’s credit card was used in several shops in Pietermaritzburg and Durban on Wednesday and Thursday.

Purchases were made at one of the big food franchises at the Midlands Liberty Mall, at a linen shop and at several designer clothing shops in Durban.

When the suspects tried to use the card at a clothing shop in Durban’s Victoria Street, a shop assistant asked for identification and they ran away. The shop assistant is related toWhen the suspects tried to use the card at a clothing shop in Durban’s Victoria Street, a shop assistant asked for identification and they ran away. The shop assistant is related to the Zondi family and she became suspicious when she saw young people using his card.

The shop assistant immediately called members of Zondi’s family. This prompted the family to drive to Pietermaritzburg in search of Zondi after failed attempts to get hold of him on his cellphone.

Zondi was tortured, burnt and killed at his flat on Wednesday last week, but his body was only discovered on Friday evening.

He was a retired professor of commerce at the Natal Technikon, and also a part-time lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He was well known among students at UKZN and some used to visit him at his flat.

He was a mentor to young people, one of whom, Philani Zuma, said he was saddened by the news of Zondi’s death.

“I had known Zondi since 2007 and we were helping each other in the field of video production. My heart was broken when I read about his death. It’s really painful to lose someone who [was] a mentor to me, my plans for the future have been shattered, we were planning big things together.”

Zuma said he last saw Zondi on February 8, 2009 and they planned to meet last week to finalise plans for one of their projects.

“I tried to call him but there was no answer.”

Budhram said the suspects are expected to appear in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court tomorrow.

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