Cato Manor hunter turns prey over 2006 death in Benoni.
North West Hawks boss Major-General Ntebo “Jan” Mabula, who is tipped to become number two in the national division of the elite crime fighting unit, is at the centre of an investigation into the murder of a suspect.
Mabula is currently the lead investigator into the alleged Cato Manor hit squad, who are facing several charges, including 28 counts of murder, assault and defeating the ends of justice.
Now the death, by suffocation, of police informer Solomon Nengwane (53), who was involved in stealing R14?million in recovered heist money from police in Benoni, has come back to haunt Mabula.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) has opened a new investigation into Nengwane’s death, allegedly at the hands of a task team of detectives under the command of Mabula, then a colonel, and its subsequent cover up.
The 2006 heist, arguably the most brazen in South African history, saw about R100?million being stolen from the OR Tambo cargo terminal.
Four of the suspects in the case – inspector Khomani Mashele, civilians Tshepo Mathe, Frank Mampane and Nengwane – were killed shortly after the heist.
At the time, prosecutor Peter Smith told the court it seemed police were “knocking off” witnesses to “cover their own tracks”.
There were also claims that the crew arrested for the robbery, which included inspectors Serious Mthembu and Paul Kgoedi and civilians Richard Sibuyi and Samson Baloi, were fall guys for more senior players.
The SA Police Service (SAPS) were, earlier this year, according to the Sunday Times, ordered to pay R40?million to a British company over the theft, which Judge Nigel Willis found was a “simulated break-in’’ that had to have involved police officers.
Willis ordered the investigation into the break-in reopened.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini told City Press the investigative body was probing the claims against Mabula and his former team.
“We have not interviewed any suspects at all. We are trying to establish the veracity of the allegations at this stage,” Dlamini said.
Hawks national spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko said the criminal cases stemming from the heist had been “held in abeyance” as the witnesses “had not turned up for court appearances”.
He said SAPS national commissioner General Riah Phiyega had ordered that the heist probe be reopened following the Willis judgment.
Ramaloko said new allegations had also been made to the Ipid by an office attached to the Cato Manor unit.
“The allegations are viewed seriously and we will cooperate with the Ipid in this regard,” he said.
In April this year, two of the officers present when Nengwane was allegedly electrocuted and smothered, and who are now based in Pretoria and Daveyton, were approached by the Ipid to make statements about the informer’s death.
Around the same time, an anonymous letter detailing the names of the officers allegedly involved in the cover-up and killing was being sent to, among others, Hawks boss Anwar Dramat.
The letter states that the team took Nengwane, who had been arrested in Mamelodi, to the Makau Police Station near Ga-Rankuwa.
There he was tortured with “electricity shock” and a “tube was used to choke him” as he was “very stubborn” and continually
refused to name his partners or divulge where the money had been hidden.
According to the letter, Mabula fainted when he realised Nengwane was dead. An officer had to fan him with a jacket to revive him.
About two hours later, Nengwane’s body was taken to Ga-Rankuwa Hospital, where the doctor on duty was told he had died of a heart attack.
Several meetings, led by Mabula, were then held at Germiston Lake and Boksburg Lake to discuss what each officer would say in their statements about what had happened, the letter claims.
Mabula has, in recent months been named by two separate Hawks sources as being in line to take up the post as deputy head of the Hawks.
Mabula is a long-term associate of suspended crime intelligence head Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli, under whom he served as a detective in Potchefstroom, North West, when Mdluli headed up the Organised Crime Unit there.
In 2008, on Mdluli’s instructions, Mabula was involved in the failed prosecution of lawyer Gerrie Nel by now acting National Prosecuting Authority head Nomgcobo Jiba.
Jiba was disciplined for the arrest and charging of Nel, who led the Jackie Selebi prosecution, allegedly as payback for his charging her husband, ex-Scorpions member Booker Nhantsi, who was jailed for corruption.