Police probing the murder of Senzo Meyiwa are now investigating those who were with him on the evening he died. Three detectives, who are directly involved in or close to the investigation, told City Press this week that they suspected that one of the people who were socialising with the Bafana Bafana captain was likely his killer.
The spotlight, the detectives say, has now fallen on one of the witnesses whose licensed firearm was sent for “forensic investigation” this week. “I can assure you that a witness who was there during the shooting will soon be taken in for questioning and possibly be arrested thereafter,” said one of the detectives.
Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Neville Malila declined to comment on the new developments in the investigation. “All we’re saying is that the investigation is continuing and there has been no arrest,” he said.
However, City Press has learnt that police are now doubting whether there was in fact an armed robbery at the home of Ntombi Khumalo, the mother of Meyiwa’s pop-star girlfriend, Kelly Khumalo, where he was visiting with friends the night he was fatally shot.
Initially, the story was that a one-armed man and an accomplice stormed into the Khumalo home in Vosloorus, on Gauteng’s East Rand, at about 8pm that Sunday evening. A struggle ensued and one of the robbers fired the gun. A bullet struck Meyiwa in the upper body.
Police from various units – including the Hawks, the tracing unit and organised crime – combed Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal for suspects, arresting three men. Two, arrested in Musina, were released shortly after they were detained.
Zamokuhle Mbatha, a car washer from Khumalo’s neighbourhood, was arrested, appeared in court and had the charges against him withdrawn. Although national police commissioner Riah Phiyega told eNCA this week that charges against Mbatha could be reinstated, the officers to whom City Press spoke say he is now completely off their radar. “There is absolutely nothing on him that could link him to the crime,” said one of the detectives.
Police are now doubting the statements made by some witnesses. There were seven adults in the house that night, including Meyiwa, Kelly Khumalo, her mother, Ntombi, her sister Zandi, her sister’s boyfriend, Longwe Twala, Meyiwa’s childhood friend Tumelo Madlala and another friend known only as Mthoko.
Also in the house at the time was Kelly Khumalo’s four-year-old son Christian, and her and Meyiwa’s baby, Thingo, who was asleep at the time. Police were initially told that two men, one armed, stormed into the house just as Meyiwa and the others were about to leave. Kelly and Zandi ran into separate bedrooms, leaving the rest in the living room.
“The other thing is if it is proved that there was no robbery, [anyone] who lied in their statements could be arrested and charged for defeating the ends of justice,” said one detective.
Police suspicions were raised after they were informed by intelligence sources that one of the witnesses confided to “some people” that he had been coached about what to include in his statement.
The man, the detectives allege, was coached into corroborating the statements of others and told to include the account that Meyiwa was shot by armed robbers. “He wants to talk and the investigators were hoping to get his new statement this weekend,” said one detective.
“He’s told some people he was coached by a fellow witness about what to say in his statement and that Senzo did not die in a robbery.
“We understand this man said he was not sleeping well at night knowing he had lied. However, even if he does not change his statement, investigators have been connecting the dots, leading them to strongly believe a witness could become the suspect in the case.”
The detectives pointed out significant anomalies in the statements taken from other witnesses at the scene. Questions were also raised after police put together a timeline of events and took a statement from one of the neighbours, who arrived at the house shortly after the gun was fired. “The truth is this is one of the hardest cases to crack, but unlike in the beginning of the investigation, the team has been brought to a lesser number of seasoned Hawks investigators and they’re pushing for a breakthrough,” said one detective.
However, after the embarrassment following Mbatha’s arrest, the detectives and other sources close to the Meyiwa family said they were treading carefully. “They have strong leads that will be thoroughly tested, but they won’t rush to make any arrests until they are really satisfied that they have enough evidence to do so,” said another detective.
Police remain under pressure to crack the case after the Meyiwa family hired a team of 10 private investigators from Magma Security to bring his killers to book. When asked about their investigation, Magma Security’s director, Shaheen Suleiman, said they were “saying nothing to the media at the moment”.
A friend of the Khumalos, who declined to be named, confirmed that the Hawks’ “suspect” is one of the witnesses who were in the house at the time of the shooting. “The Hawks don’t want to reveal their suspect to the public as yet because they are still working on concrete evidence,” said the friend.
Calls and text messages to Kelly Khumalo requesting comment went unanswered on Saturday. Madlala was unavailable for comment. His cellphone was switched off and he did not respond to text messages. City Press was not able to reach Mthoko for comment. Twala’s father, Chicco, who has produced Kelly Khumalo’s latest album and who has been speaking on behalf of the Khumalo family and his son, declined to comment on Saturday.