Suspects still on the loose

2016-12-07 06:01
The funeral of slain tavern owner and former footballer Alfred “Chencha” Helepi . Photo: Teboho Setena

The funeral of slain tavern owner and former footballer Alfred “Chencha” Helepi . Photo: Teboho Setena

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The release of the five suspects linked to the murder of tavern owner Alfred “Chencha” Helepi (70) has left the aggrieved family and the public alike with more questions than answers.

According to documents, the suspects are Lesotho nationals Dira Moreenyane (32), Nthabi-seng Lempe (32) and Alice Majake (27), as well as Ntsane Togowe (37) from Bloemfontein and Banzini Gxamza (33) from Port Elizabeth.

They were all let go on 11 November following an order by the Bloemfontein High Court after the Regional Court struck the matter off the roll. They had been in custody since their arrest in May shortly after Helepi was murdered.

The Directorate for Priority Crime (the Hawks) apparently delayed finalising an investigation to start proceedings of the trial and numerous postponements were cited as the reason to free the five suspects.

On the day the five appeared in court, the state also freed Gxamza, despite the fact that police had been hunting him since 2012. A warrant was issued in 2012 for his arrest to stand trial for theft and housebreaking in Port Elizabeth.

Asked to explain, Phaladi Shuping, spokesperson of the National Prosecution Authority in the Free State, said that “there are certain aspects of this matter that are being investigated, more so relating to the release of the accused”.

“Unfortunately I am not allowed to give full information on matters that are under investigation,” he said.

The bungle apparently follows the appointment of two presiding officers who were unfamiliar with the details of Helepi’s murder case.

“For some reason on the day in question, a new presiding magistrate and a prosecutor were responsible for the case.”

This is according to Capt. S’fiso Nyakane, spokesperson of the Hawks in the Free State.

He refuted that there was a delay in finalising the investigation.

“Investigation of this matter was finalised long ago, even before and after the bail application was done. From the beginning of the investigation of this case, a dedicated prosecutor of the DPP was assigned to handle the matter,” he said.

He has expressed disgust with the release of the five suspects.

“The directorate is very disappointed, especially after such good work has been done to trace and arrest the accused within 24 hours after the incident and successfully opposing bail, which saw all the accused being kept in custody.

“The release had a negative impact on the directorate and tarnished the trust the community had.

“The fact that Gxamza was a wanted person, was also brought before the court during bail application and the dockets were presented,” said Nyakane.

He said the director found via investigation that Gxamza was wanted and strongly believed the suspect should remain in custody and be charged by the NPA.

“Case dockets were retrieved from the station where it was filed and brought to the attention of the court during bail application.”

Nyakane said the directo-rate’s investigator gathered evidence which included information about money due for banking being stolen.

“The identity kits were compiled by two witnesses and matched some of the accused, and the garment which they suggested one was wearing during the incident, was found by the team during his arrest and was confiscated and sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for a possible DNA match with the deceased’s blood,” said Nyakane.

The release of the five suspects has aggravated doubts that some aggrieved mourners expressed at Helepi’s funeral about privileges criminals have, being offered state attorneys to represent them over law-abiding citizens, including the victims. The five suspects were represented by Legal Aid South Africa attorneys Machini Motloung and Saintin Seitheisho.

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