Mebra’s biggest cases

2017-07-05 11:13
Mebra Nzimande (right) with colleague Musa Ndlela, the man he calls his ‘twin’. The picture was taken at Nzimande’s farewell.

Mebra Nzimande (right) with colleague Musa Ndlela, the man he calls his ‘twin’. The picture was taken at Nzimande’s farewell. (Ingrid Oellermann)

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Mebra Nzimande was the detective whose tipoff cracked open one of South Africa’s biggest ATM bombing syndicates.

Ten members of the syndicate were convicted in the Pietermaritzburg high court and received life sentences.

“I got information from Soweto that the team was leaving Gauteng to go to Zululand area in KZN to bomb ATMs. I was supplied with the registration number of the kombi they were using,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande said he enlisted the aid of Organised Crime Unit (OCU) members Colonel Tienie Botha and his wife, Theresa, who had links in that area, to alert all stations to look out for the kombi. “We always work as a team at OCU. We are like a family,” he added.

“The bombers were arrested at Mtubatuba and we recovered firearms and explosives ... The case went to the high court and all got life sentences. It was a very good case. Willem de Wet was the investigating officer,” said Nzimande.

“What bothers me is that for all these years there has been an outcry about these ATM bombings all over the country. People were killed in these bombings. But when these suspects were arrested not even one big boss from [the] province came and congratulated us for our work ... Not even one wrote a letter to our commander.

“Not that we want to be praised because we work for the community, to help the community ... but I’m just saying ... It surprises me,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande said internal power struggles have nothing to do with his unit. “All I and my now ex-colleagues ever wanted is to fight crime wherever we find it. That is what we are used to doing.”

He added that if head office wanted information about the OCU’s crime solving abilities all they had to do was ask the office of the KZN Director of Public Prosecutions, which works very closely with the unit.

Nzimande’s plans for the future are to relax with his family and enjoy his passion, which is fishing. “I am so tired now and discouraged,” he said.

While not keen to highlight details about his family because of his work, he does reveal proudly that one of his sons is a lawyer.

A few of the high profile cases Nzimande was instrumental in cracking are the following:

The 1995 political murders of four PMB dog handlers, Warrant Officer Johannes Wessels, Sergeant Steven Cummings, Sergeant Osman Mkhize, Constable Sithembiso Biyela and an informer who were cold bloodedly gunned down when they entered Impendle on an investigation.

He says this was a “very difficult” investigation. But within two weeks all the suspects were arrested and convictions followed. Nzimande’s commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Pete Scott, recalls police were warned by politicians not to enter Nzinga at Impendle in search of the killers as they would be killed.

“We had to warn the team and give them the choice. I recall Mebra’s words. He said no one will tell us where to go and when — we will go in.”

Another crime solved by Nzimande and his team was the “problematic” murder of senior correctional services director Thuthukile Bhengu in 2001. She died of multiple gunshots in her home whilst talking on her phone.

The shooting was linked to her investigations into corruption in prison.

There was also the murder of young Johnny Canos during an armed robbery in his parents’ bottle store in Pelham; the murder of Professor Samuel Zondi (71), found gagged, his head covered in a plastic bag, blindfolded and partially burnt in his Scottsville flat in 2009, and an armed hold-up at Absa Bank in Greytown involving a “helluva shootout” in the streets but fortunately no deaths, in connection with which the robbers were sentenced to 20 years in jail earlier this year.

But for Nzimande the case that “made him cry” and continues to haunt him were the 2010 gruesome murders of farmer’s wife, Lorraine Karg, and her employees, Hilda Linyane and Zakius Mhlongo, two of whose throats were slit from ear to ear.

Scott said at Nzimande’s retirement the OCU had in the past enjoyed a conviction rate of around 98% and a solving rate of 95% when it came to farm murders.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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