Taxi boss quizzed over alleged hijacking of white Quantum linked to Soweto murders

2017-06-19 22:14
Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe. (Facebook)

Bongeka Phungula and Popi Qwabe. (Facebook)

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Johannesburg - A taxi owner was quizzed over whether his driver opened a hijacking docket with the police after he was allegedly hijacked hours before two women, who were passengers in the vehicle, were discovered dead in Soweto last month.

Johannes Mkhwanazi who is the employer of one of the men charged with the women’s kidnapping, robbery and murder, told the court that after the car was recovered by a tracking company, neither he nor Alek Magaula Mamothame saw the need to continue with registering a case.

He told the court that at the time, none of the police officers at the scene where the vehicle was found, requested Mamothame or himself to submit a statement or fill out any documentation pertaining to Mamothame's claim that he had been hijacked earlier on the evening of May 12.

Mamothame, 43, and Sandile Nkosi, 25, appeared in the Protea Magistrate's court on Monday for a continuation of their bail application hearing. Both men have been charged with the kidnapping, robbery and murders of close friends Popi Qwabe and Bongeka Phungula on May 12.

Qwabe, 24, was found dead near Naledi High School. She had been shot and left for dead. Soweto West police cluster commander Major-General Fred Kekana said a passer-by found her and took her to Bheki Mlangeni Hospital in Jabulani, where she succumbed to her injuries and died on arrival.

Less than 24 hours later, her close friend Phungula, 28, was found in Tladi, a neighbouring township. She had also been shot in the upper body. Police suspect she was raped.

Both women were originally from Mayville, Durban.

Mamothame and Nkosi, both taxi drivers, were arrested on May 21.

Last week, Mamothame told the court that on the night of May 12 he picked up three men and two women he believed were passengers in Soweto.

Fourth hijacking

Shortly after they boarded his taxi, a gun was pointed at him and he was hijacked, he said. He managed to jump out of the moving vehicle and made his way to the area where Mkhwanazi’s taxis usually parked overnight and asked one of the men to call Mkhwanazi to inform him of the hijacking.

Mamothame and Mkhwanazi agreed to meet at a nearby police station to open a case. However, while there, the vehicle tracking company called Mkhwanazi informing him that his minibus was found in Mapetla.

According to police at the scene, two or three men jumped out of the minibus and ran away, the court heard at the time.

Mamothame had told the court that he was not entirely sure whether the two women in the vehicle were genuine passengers or if they were travelling with the three men.

On Monday, Mkhwanazi was asked why he did not continue opening a hijacking case with the police after the fact.

He told the court that this had been the fourth time one of his taxis was hijacked and that each time the vehicle was recovered, he was only ever asked to check if it was damaged and to produce documentation to prove the car really did belong to him.

After that, he was allowed to take his car back with no further processing of any other information.

“This is the fourth time this has happened. Each time they [tracking company] call me and I fetch my car. All I know is when you recover your vehicle the police ask you if there are any damages. If there aren’t any, you take your vehicle back.”

Lipstick and  a cellphone

Mkwanazi said if he had been expected to still provide the police with any further statements or details, they should have informed him of that at the scene or even after they had escorted Mamothame and himself back to the place where they parked his vehicles.

In his affidavit submitted to the court last week, Mamothame said he found lipstick in the taxi when he was asked to check whether the recovered taxi had been damaged in any way.

He told the court that he suspected the lipstick may have belonged to one of the two women who had boarded his taxi along with the three men.

Nkosi, who works for another taxi owner as a relief driver, told the court through an affidavit last week that he had been instructed to park the vehicle when Mkhwanazi and Mamothame dropped it off before heading home.

While doing so, he said he heard a cellphone ringing. He found it inside the minibus and answered to find out who the owner was. He had no luck getting information from the person on the other end of the line and decided to keep it.

A week later, his mother called him, saying police were at their home looking for him. He lives with her. When he arrived, officers arrested him for being in possession of the cellphone, he said.

Both men claimed they were innocent of any wrong doing and denied taking part in any of the crimes they were accused of committing. They had called Mkhwanazi as their witness.

The matter was postponed to Thursday, June 22, when the investigating officer Walter Masuku was expected to give the court reasons why he opposed their application for bail.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  crime

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