The Ramogibes hope for justice

2012-09-08 16:24

Inquest highlights difficulties in a case now 13 years old.

On Thursday morning, a shy 17-year-old girl arrived at the Boksburg Magistrates’ Court to watch her mother testify about the death of
a father she barely knew.

She was just four years old in 1998, when Abel “Oupa” Ramogibe left her mother, Lerato Sebalo, and eloped with the woman the then Vosloorus Police Station commander Richard Mdluli considered his wife.

Less than a year later, Oupa was dead – shot five times with the service pistol of a police officer in an alleged mugging at the scene of
a previous attempt on his life.

Mdluli – who went on to head the police’s crime intelligence division, a job he lost earlier this year – and three co-accused, were arrested in connection with the murder, but the charges against them were all dropped in February this year.

This week, Oupa’s sister told the court that from the first contact Mdluli made with them in 1998, “the whole family was living in fear and we hated the police”.

Oupa’s mother Sophia testified that she first met Mdluli in September 1998, when he arrived at her home in Dawn Park, Boksburg.

“(Mdluli) said he was looking for my son Oupa because he had run away with his wife. He then said I must go with him to where my children reside, maybe Oupa is there.”

Oupa’s sister alleges Mdluli told the family: “I will look for him myself and you will mourn him.” More than a decade has passed since Oupa’s death.

This, combined with poor statement-taking by police at the time of the crime, has provided fertile ground for the battery of criminal defence lawyers seated in front of the empty accused bench.

Under cross-examination, Lerato, Sophia and her daughter – who may not be named as she was a victim of sexual violence – all admitted they did not know who killed Ramogibe, although they have their suspicions.

Oupa’s sister said she was told by her mother that Mdluli had made several threats against Oupa’s life, but Sophia said there had been
just two threats.

Lerato told the court she introduced Mdluli to Oupa’s mother because he showed her the marriage certificate of Oupa and Tshidi Buthelezi, whom Mdluli said was his wife.

But Sophia said she was alone the first time she met Mdluli and that she had not known of her son’s marriage to Buthelezi.

The original statements taken by local police from the three women are also riddled with problems.

Sophia’s was apparently taken in Sesotho but translated into Afrikaans, a language she does not speak.

Oupa’s sister’s statement bears signatures she told the court were not hers.

Last year, the Hawks took new statements from the three women after the Sowetan newspaper published details of the case.

Oupa’s sister’s statement at the time detailed how she was raped after the family laid a criminal complaint about her brother’s death.

Her mother Sophia received a threatening phone call the next day, asking if her daughter had “enjoyed herself”.

But her statement last year was, according to Mdluli’s attorney Ike Motloung, the first time she made the connection between Oupa’s murder and the rape.

The family stopped pursuing the murder case after receiving the phone call.

Nobody has been arrested for that crime either.

In another strange twist, two sets of dockets submitted to prosecutors at the Boksburg Magistrates’ Court after the murder investigation into Mdluli disappeared.

The inquest before Magistrate Jurg Viviers will determine what the cause of Oupa’s death was, and whether anybody can be held responsible.

It continues tomorrow.

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