Justice at last

Cover-up of Moss Phakoe’s murder seemed complete, until the tables turned on Wolmarans

As a former ANC mayor was led away by armed policemen this week to start a 20-year murder sentence, an activist walked out of court and exclaimed: “Bra Moss has spoken from his grave! This is what he fought and died for!”

For two days, Alfred Motsi’s eyes had been fixed on former Rustenburg mayor Matthew Wolmarans as Judge Ronnie Hendricks condemned him and his co-accused as the ruthless, remorseless killers of activist and Rustenburg councillor Moss Phakoe.

Wolmarans was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, while his bodyguard, Enoch Matshaba, was condemned to life behind bars.

Motsi has emerged as the hero in a case that chronicled how he and Phakoe embarked on a futile campaign to persuade the ANC’s top leadership that their North West golden boy was corrupt.

In the process, Motsi claims he was scorned by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as a “troublemaker” and that the organisation’s top national leadership did little to stop an apparently untouchable Wolmarans.

Motsi, a dedicated ANC member, lashed out this week at the failure of the ANC leadership to act on their information and accused them of protecting Wolmarans.

Motsi claimed this week that Mantashe’s alleged description of him as a troublemaker was a response to Motsi persistently phoning Mantashe a few months before Phakoe’s death. Motsi was pleading with Mantashe to act against Wolmarans.

Mantashe rejected Motsi’s claims, but admitted that he had spoken several times to him prior to the murder.

He said Motsi had been “rude” and unrealistic in his demands.

“Moss would still have been alive if they had listened to us,” Motsi countered.

When Wolmarans received a message more than three years ago that his adversary, Phakoe, had been permanently silenced, he was in the presence of none other than Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, the court heard during the trial.

In March 2009, Phakoe was found slumped over the wheel of his car with two bullet wounds while Motsi, his closest confidant and friend, was in hiding because he feared he was also on the Wolmarans’ hit list.

At the time both were ANC councillors in Rustenburg, and had embarked on a campaign to expose Wolmarans and his cronies.

Their campaign took them from Luthuli House in Johannesburg to President Jacob Zuma’s KwaZulu-Natal homestead in Nkandla, to a meeting with the ANC’s top leadership in Potchefstroom, Motsi testified in court.

The two finally handed their dossier of evidence to then Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka at a meeting in Rustenburg. Wolmarans was at the meeting.

According to evidence led in court, Phakoe told the mayor: “Hurt me, but don’t kill me.”

Two days later, Matshaba shot Phakoe as Phakoe was parking his car at his Rustenburg home.

He had just returned from putting up ANC national election posters.

When Wolmarans and Mthethwa arrived at the Phakoe house the next day to pay their respects to the family, the family refused to let the mayor in. For them, he was already the prime suspect.

The then North West premier Maureen Modiselle commissioned a forensic report in 2010 to investigate alleged fraud in the Bojanala Platinum District Municipality, of which Rustenburg is a part.

The report identified Wolmarans and his cronies as prime suspects in the murder, but no action was taken.

Motsi continued his campaign against Wolmarans from his hideouts in and around Rustenburg, but the investigation ground to a halt.
Under pressure to find the killers, the police appointed a special North West task team.

This was headed by Colonel Tsietsi Mano, who was accused of fiddling with evidence in the investigation into the murder of Eugene Terre’Blanche.

Now dead, Mano was also accused of being a serial torturer and manufacturer of evidence, and was a confidant of disgraced former crime intelligence chief Richard Mdluli.

The initial investigation came to naught but when the Hawks raided Mdluli’s office last year, they allegedly found the Phakoe docket gathering dust in his office.

The docket was handed to a Hawks special task team, which arrested Wolmarans and Matshaba weeks later.

Finally, earlier this year, Motsi got the chance to tell his story in court.

His evidence was described by the judge as honest, truthful and reliable.

The words, “Hurt me, but don’t kill me” were emblazoned on red T-shirts that several hundred Phakoe and Motsi supporters wore this week in front of the High Court in Rustenburg.

A few metres away, the Wolmarans faction – allies of ANC provincial chairman Supra Mahumapelo – displayed posters with slogans like “Hands off our Wollie”.

The two ANC factions were separated by heavily armed public-order policemen and armoured vehicles.

Late on Monday, as Wolmarans prepared to spend his first night in prison as a convicted killer, the Phakoe family, Motsi and supporters held a vigil at Phakoe’s grave in Rustenburg cemetery.

Motsi remarked that his friend and fellow activist was turning out to be as much a problem to Wolmarans in death as he had been in life.

“Rest in peace, warrior friend,” said Motsi. “The struggle continues.”
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