Witness in Mohlala murder vanishes

2011-02-01 14:22

A key witness in the assassination case of former Mbombela Municipality speaker Jimmy Mohlala has disappeared ahead of the internal ­disciplinary hearing of two police ­officers whom he implicated in the ­murder.

Evans Mabika linked Nelspruit flying squad member Stanley Mhlanga and Constable Finish Mkhabela to Mohlala’s killing.

The two cops were arrested with three other people – Mabika’s mother, Jenny, his brother, Sakhile, and Moses Mahungela – last October.

In an affidavit to the police, ­Mabika claimed the plot was hatched at his mother’s house in Matsulu by the five. He wrote that the accused’s motive for the assassination was that: “Mohlala (behaved) like he owns Mbombela municipality.”

Mabika also claimed that on the day the plot was being finalised Mkhabela was speaking on his cellphone to someone who appeared to have been watching Mohlala’s house at KaNyamazane, about 20km from Matsulu.

After the meeting Mhlanga, Mkhabela and Mabika’s brother, Sakhile, got into a white police car and drove to KaNyamazane, ­Mabika claimed.

Mohlala was gunned down ­outside his house on Sunday, ­January 4 2009.

A family member of the Mabikas told City Press the police visited them two weeks ago seeking Evans’s contact details.

The two cellphone numbers he supplied with his affidavit are not working and he and his wife, Nonhlanhla Mkhabela, have not been seen over the past five weeks. Nonhlanhla, who is a traffic police officer, has also not reported for duty.

Provincial police spokesperson Leonard Hlathi refused to discuss the whereabouts of Mabika, saying they were not at liberty to share that with the media.

Mabika is crucial to the police’s internal disciplinary hearing against Mhlanga and Mkhabela which is scheduled for tomorrow.

So far the only shred of evidence the police appear to have gathered since the arrests is ­Mabika’s affidavit.

Isaac Magagula, chairperson of the provincial SA Police Union, said the police brought only Mabika’s affidavit – with no witness to testify – to the last hearing against their two members three weeks ago.

He said: “We are waiting for the employer to bring more evidence other than the hearsay statement. Up to so far I do not see any prospect of them succeeding, but I won’t say more to avoid jeopardising our case.”

Correspondence obtained by City Press shows how provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Thulani Ntombela acted against the advice that Mhlanga and Mkhabela should not be charged until enough evidence had been gathered.

In a letter to Ntombela, deputy provincial commissioner for ­support services Major-General Thembi Hadebe wrote: “The statements (of witnesses) were perused and it was found that the information (or evidence) is insufficient to prove the case as well as to decide on possible suspension of these members.

“This office requests that the departmental trial for these members be delayed to collect more evidence, for example ballistic results, and that alternative placement of these members be considered in terms of Regulation. 13 (1).”

Ntombela decided, however, that they should nonetheless be suspended, without giving reasons in the space left for him on the correspondence to comment.

Hlathi said the disciplinary hearing against the two members was “an internal matter and not for public consumption”.

At the time of his death, Mohlala was fighting tender corruption around the R1.2-billion Mbombela World Cup stadium.

Mohlala’s murder is among ­several other high-profile assassination cases in Mpumalanga which will be investigated by a special team of detectives deployed to the province by the national police commissioner, General Bheki Cele.

The National Prosecuting ­Authority also said it would assign “highly qualified” prosecutors to deal with the assassination cases in order to solve the scourge of politically motivated murders in the province.

Police have not yet arrested any suspects in connection with the murder of former provincial sports and recreation spokesperson Sammy Mpatlanyane at his home last year.

Earlier this month Enhlanzeni district municipality’s chief whip, Johan Ndlovu, was also murdered. Three suspects remain in custody while the investigation continues.

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