SAPS ‘catch and release’ policy and the law of inequality

The rumours began on 9 April. Two notorious hostel hitmen had allegedly been released from custody – one from Westville Correctional Services Facility, the other reportedly from Kokstad C-Max.

According to sources, the C-Max suspect, charged with last year’s 18 July murder of Harding ANC ward 1 candidate councillor, Bongani Sikhosana (and also allegedly involved in the murders of Glebelands ANC branch chair, Richard Mbona; former MK vet, Frank Khuzwayo and others), had been released on 3 April. According to the Hawks team investigating KZN political murders, the case had been provisionally withdrawn because “the only witness (the child of the deceased) was very young.”

So why was the suspect arrested in the first place if investigating officers knew they would be unable to rely on the testimony of a minor – their only witness? Surely in a case such as this, any evidence provided by a minor, could and should be given in-camera? And what of witness protection? Witnesses to Glebelands-related killings have a nasty habit of ending up dead long before they reach court; a child would be particularly vulnerable. So what has the state done to safeguard this family?

It is interesting that, along with other Glebelands murder accused, the C-Max suspect had been previously arrested, it is thought for the murder of Mbona, and then released from custody in May 2016. However, he did not apparently return immediately to Glebelands, stopping off at Harding just long enough to carry out the hit on Sikhosana. So had he been on bail when he allegedly killed Sikhosana? Did the investigating officer appraise the court of former serious charges?

This suspect clearly holds a ‘get out of jail free card’, a classic example of the SAPS catch and release policy when dealing with Glebelands hitmen. The author knows at least 30 similar cases. The worst involved the late hostel warlord (allegedly a close associate of Glebelands ward 76 councillor and well known to local ANC leadership), believed to have been directly involved in at least three attempted murders and behind many more successful ones; hijacking, armed robbery, assault, theft, extortion, intimidation, illegal evictions and impersonating police officers. He was arrested and released a minimum of 5 times and re-arrested at least 3 times while out on bail.

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The other hostel hitman, arrested on 22 December 2016, had apparently been on his way to assassinate a Glebelands Peace Committee member who had been Christmas shopping at Umlazi’s busy MegaCity Mall. The police who foiled the assassination attempt, reportedly found him in possession of ammunition and an unlicensed firearm.

Both suspects are believed to have been amongst those driving the hostel violence since 2014.

Furthermore, sources claim they – or their fellow hostel killers – were likely involved in the murders of Margate ANC PR councilor, Thembinkosi ‘Commando’ Zoleka (10 November 2016), and Harding ANC ward 3 councilor, Alwyn ‘Ace’ Houston (1 December 2016). Harding reportedly has its own hit list containing the names of political and community leaders, taxi bosses and others identified for assassination. The release of these two suspects will almost certainly lead to further bloodshed, both at Glebelands and Harding.

Yet as of 12 April – seven days after the second hitman was reportedly granted bail – the SAPS was still insisting the suspect was in custody.
Clearly another ‘get out of jail free’ card holder, this suspect was also arrested – and released – at least twice previously for other serious crimes such as murder, attempted murder and truckjacking. He was named in the late Sipho Ndovela’s statement – himself gunned down at the Umlazi Magistrate’s Court – as amongst those responsible for the murder of Fikile Siyephu (15 February 2015). Numerous witnesses later saw him, together with his former C-Max mate, extorting around R150 per vehicle from Glebelands Masakhe Okuhle Taxi Association drivers on 16, 17 and 23 April.

Generally, bail conditions for those found in possession of unlicensed firearms or other serious crimes require they provide an alternate address for the duration of their case to prevent them “interfering with witnesses.” This suspect however, has been allowed to return to his hostel room (and criminal enterprises) and merely has to ‘sign in’ at nearby Umlazi SAPS – hardly onerous bail conditions and deeply worrying for those under threat given the extensive complaints of collusion between Umlazi officers and Glebelands killers.

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So why the special treatment? And why lie about the suspect’s release?

Believed to have been originally recruited by a renegade Durban Central SAPS detective – allegedly the local ANC ward councillor’s ‘go to guy’ when dealing with ‘troublesome’ community members – sources claim both suspects were also moonlighting for a feared Harding taxi boss / hitman / alleged former cop (arrested in January for the March 2016 hit on Xolobeni anti-mining activist Sikhosiphi Bazooka Rhadebe). The Harding killer’s guns were reportedly provided, not only by Glebelands’ renegade detective, but also by his girlfriend, allegedly a Harding SAPS officer.

And so the law of inequality continues… The bodies pile up yet there is still no prosecution because the revolving doors of the criminal justice system open and close on Glebelands’ killers like the empty mouthing of the president’s sycophants.

Justice for Glebelands victims? Not bloody likely.

Just as the apartheid regime, their IFP allies and ANC enemies used hostel communities to wage proxy wars on rival communities, Glebelands has been allowed to become a convenient source of hired guns to be used to eliminate political and economic adversaries in the ANC’s deadly factional battles. Throw into this toxic mix a little ethnic intolerance, presidential clan loyalty, tender corruption, political patronage, police collusion and ordinary criminal enterprise, and the situation quickly becomes a real threat to provincial security. Thousands of ordinary poor black residents have no agency in this war, for when elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled.

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