Good boy gone bad

2014-02-01 00:00

THE man known as “BhokoBhoko” grew up in a warm family, supported eight children, learnt a trade, and was a dedicated church-goer.

But, this week, he died in a hail of police gunfire as the worst person imaginable: a cop-killer who sprayed busy city streets with automatic rifle fire and who tortured babies for money.

Themba “BhokoBhoko” Mtshali led the gang that murdered security guard Izak Phungula during a cash-in-transit heist in Richmond this week, and then set an ambush which killed a police sergeant, Prince Thamsanqa Zondi, and critically wounded his colleague.

Having recklessly led his four gang friends into a trap in a quarry which saw all of them shot and wounded by police, the tall 33-year-old continued to shoot at police until he was killed.

The bloodbath that he orchestrated ended a six-year crime spree, after Mtshali skipped bail during a 2008 cash-in-transit trial in Durban.

Yesterday, Mtshali’s sister, Fumbathile Mtshali, said she was “shocked” to learn of her brother’s atrocities — and was at a loss to explain how the polite boy she grew up with in kwaMaphumulo had turned so bad.

“He attended school and dropped out in Grade 10,” she said. “He was working as a bricklayer in Durban. He was helping in the community with his bricklaying skills.”

In addition to a string of other crimes, Mtshali was being sought for the February 2012 robbery and torture of two families at Albert Falls, during which boiling water was poured on the victims — including a two-year-old toddler.

Former SAPS Warrant Officer Swami Pillay said he had lost count of the violent crimes in which Mtshali was a suspect, ”This was one of the most notorious gunmen in the province. He was sought for cash in transit-heist cases, farm murders and robberies.”

Pillay said he was a suspect in armed robberies and murders in Hillcrest, Isipingo and on the South Coast between 2010 to 2013.

Meanwhile, another policeman who investigated Mtshali said the criminal “bought the best clothes, ate well, bought fancy cars and owned taxis.”

“He always had cash on him and lived a fast lifestyle,” said the officer, who asked not to be named.

The officer said Mtshali had been arrested “multiple times” before 2008, but had emerged as a major figure after his involvement in a major cash-in-transit heist of a Coin security van outside House of Paint on the Bluff.

Mtshali was arrested later that month in Philani Valley, Umlazi, but was subsequently granted bail and went on the run.

The officer said, “He was a violent armed robber who was prepared to shoot his way out of any situation … You can’t get worse than that.”

He said Mtshali’s partner, Bongani Biyela, killed a policeman in November 2008, and like Mtshali, died in a shootout with police a few weeks later.

Mtshali’s sister said he visited the family home infrequently in recent years, “Before, he loved going to church, but lately he was not attending the church services when he was home. He must be forgiven for his sins and others must learn from him that crime doesn’t pay.”

His younger brother Hlalazi Mtshali said BhokoBhoko — who was unmarried —had supported his eight biological children from different mothers.

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