They say time is the greatest healer, but I am not sure if the wounds of family, friends and comrades of Jimmy Mohlala are healing eight years after he was shot dead.
Last week, Mohlala’s SA Communist Party (SACP) comrades took to Facebook and posted Mohlala’s poster – crying out for justice to be done and to nudge everybody never to forget.
To jog your memory, Mohlala was the council speaker of Mbombela. An affable soul, according to those who knew him.
He was shot dead on January 4 2009 for what most people believe was an attempt to cover up tender corruption that sullied the construction of the R1.2 billion Mbombela Stadium for the Fifa World Cup.
Those who believe his death cannot be separated from the stadium are within their right to do so. Copious municipal records paint a clear picture of Mohlala’s crusade against tender corruption, and just how putrefied processes were.
I often wonder what Mohlala’s family and friends think when they see the architectural masterpiece in Mataffin, just outside the city centre.
Is it just a sports facility or an eyesore? Do they ever go to watch soccer, rugby and music performances taking place there, knowing what the stadium cost them?
I doubt that time will ever heal their grief and pain. I imagine that only justice and some sort of closure will appease them.
But there is a big problem here. Justice has failed Mohlala’s spirit and all those who care.
That failure doesn’t look like an honest mistake, and I will tell you why.
Firstly, late in 2010, the Hawks arrested five people for Mohlala’s murder. They made a spectacle of themselves by celebrating the so-called breakthrough with glee.
The noisy ones’ bullshit detectors went up, because among the five suspects, one was 59-year-old Jenny Mabila – an unsophisticated, single Matsulu township woman who eked out a living as a hospital cleaner to raise her sons (one of them, Sakhile, was also arrested for pulling the trigger to kill Mohlala) and daughters under trying circumstances.
The gasps and sighs of disbelief from the public gallery when Mabila appeared in court alongside the four young men – two of them were policemen – explained it all. She just did not fit in as a billion-rand-tender league player.
I dug up more information and to my surprise found that the Hawks’ informant, Evans, was also Mabila’s son.
Nothing wrong about the Hawks listening to Evans, but he had, in between Mohlala’s shooting and blowing the whistle to the police, decided to frame Sakhile for a lesser crime of stealing his girlfriend’s car.
Evans withdrew the charge against Sakhile the following day.
About one year and 10 months later, Evans decided to tell the Hawks about the crime that was plotted in his presence at his mother’s house.
The two cops – Stanley Mhlanga and Finish Mkhabela – were immediately suspended without pay. This happened despite a deputy police commissioner warning her colleagues that it was premature to suspend the duo before ballistic tests and other evidence were collected.
Evans’ colourful affidavit with juicy details about witchcraft was the only evidence the police had. The court correctly withdrew the charges in 2012. Since then, the police have been dead silent.
Then, later in 2012, the Hawks followed up on the tender corruption. They arrested five men, including Kaizer Chiefs manager Bobby Motaung, and former Mbombela manager Jacob Dladla, on fraud and corruption charges.
Motaung’s company, Lefika Emerging Equity, won the tender to design the stadium. The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) was certain it had a winnable case.
The SACP members I mentioned before and the public took to the streets and demanded something else – that Mohlala’s killers (who were not Motaung and his co-accused) be found and put in jail.
A few months down the line, the NPA, still confident of its prospects to win, requested the transfer of the case from the regional to the high court. Then, something bizarre happened.
Instead of coming up with a new date, the NPA’s management submitted two contradicting letters to the Nelspruit regional court.
One manager wanted the case to remain in the regional court while another wanted it transferred. The confusion prompted the magistrate to withdraw the case.
Despite the NPA having said it was ready for trial, the police started their investigation afresh and the NPA declined to prosecute.
This begs the question: Why was the NPA ready for trial before the scramble about the transfer of the case?
The less said about the appointment of a police task team in 2011 to probe the Mpumalanga political killings, the better. To date, no one knows anything about it.
Something is really amiss about Mohlala’s case and one is tempted to suspect collusion and sabotage.
This is the stuff of fiction movies and dramas where cases disappear because of witchcraft.
Who should Mohlala’s family, friends and comrades turn to for justice to be done?
Yende is a journalist based in Nelspruit
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