'Zondi suspect' shot dead

2009-02-03 00:00

Drivers screeched to a halt and horrified onlookers stared in disbelief as police chased and shot dead an alleged suspect in the murder of Inkosi Mbongeleni Zondi in Durban’s busy Umgeni Road yesterday afternoon.

Police refused to provide details of the confrontation. Director Phindile Radebe issued a statement saying that two suspects were arrested — both at the kwaDukuza taxi rank — after being positively linked to Zondi’s murder.

A 21- year-old man was arrested there on Monday and another man yesterday. They are expected to appear at the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court today on murder charges.

Radebe said: “A third suspect who was being sought by police for questioning was spotted at Umgeni Road.

“The suspect opened fire on police officers when confronted and a shoot-out ensued. The suspect was fatally wounded.”

Shocked onlookers described the scene. Motorist Barbara Leask said she first thought the “pah, pah, pah” she heard was a vehicle backfiring, but then saw a police car come roaring up behind her with officers leaning out of the windows shooting. At first it appeared they were shooting at a taxi that came flying past her.

“All the cars behind me came to a screaming halt. I got a huge fright, but I wasn’t going to stop.

There were just too many bullets flying around me. I didn’t see the end result.”

Crowds gathered to watch heavily armed policemen walking up and down the road, which had been closed.

There were reports of a woman sitting in the centre of the road waving her arms and crying, but police said there were no other injuries. A paramedic said he was waved on when he arrived at the scene. Police apparently told him it was just a minor accident.

Another motorist, Chris Kamstra, who arrived on the scene shortly after the confrontation, said spent cartridges were lying along the road on spots marked with green spray paint. Heavily armed police were scouring the bush alongside the nearby Umgeni station.

It is believed that the shooting was not the result of a last- minute confrontation in Umgeni Road, but that police chased the suspect all the way from kwaDukuza.

Zondi, a prominent traditional leader and supporter of ANC president Jacob Zuma, was gunned down in Umlazi on January 22.

The motive for what is widely seen as an assassination, has been ascribed both to political intolerance and taxi violence.

Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Cele told The Witness just over a week ago that they were hot on the heels of the criminals behind the Zondi killing. He said a special task team had been assigned to investigate the killing and confirmed that police were looking for three suspects. “They have heard that we are looking for them and are on the run, but there is great hope,” he said.

He described the suspects as dangerous criminals linked to other crimes in the province.

The ANC in KwaZulu-Natal and Premier S’bu Ndeblele welcomed the arrests.

Referring to yesterday’s shooting, the ANC said “it is appreciated that the police now refuse to be victims of criminals”.

“As the ANC we would like to commend the police for their swift action in the arrest of the suspects linked to (ANC MP Prince Zeblon) Zulu’s attempted assassination and the murder of Inkosi Zondi.

“We commend them for their thorough job which has eventually culminated in all these arrests.”

They said the ANC will come out in numbers at both court appearances to protest against these crimes.

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