Lead could solve murder mystery
Alleged hit man fingers senior ANC member for the murder of Bakwena ba Mogopa community member who exposed illegal sale of mineral rights
The family of a North West whistle-blower has been told of a new lead that could help solve his murder mystery five years after he was shot for exposing the illegal sale of mineral rights. In the latest turn of events, the alleged hit man has made a confession in which he implicates a senior ANC member in the North West as having orchestrated the murder of whistle-blower Phili Kungwane.
Kungwane, a member of the Bakwena ba Mogopa community, was gunned down in October 2010 after he discovered that newly found platinum deposits belonging to the community had been improperly ceded to a soccer boss.
This year has seen a number of political killings in municipalities and provinces over access to resources, and with the 2016 local government elections fast approaching, tensions are expected to increase.
In the Eastern Cape, ANC OR Tambo regional chair Xolile Nkompela’s bodyguard, Zukile Nyontso, was shot dead in an apparent hit on his boss two weeks ago in a village outside Tsomo.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Nquthu municipality councillor, Vusi Ntombela, was killed while giving lessons at Luvisi Primary School in Vryheid, where he was also a deputy principal.
KwaZulu-Natal Premier Senzo Mchunu’s bodyguard, Xolani Nkosi, was shot dead in July while travelling in Empangeni.
North West businessman Wandile Bozwana was killed in an apparent hit at the Garsfontein off-ramp in Pretoria while travelling with a female colleague in October.
President Jacob Zuma’s bodyguard, Mzwakhe Magwaza, was shot and killed inside his rondavel in Eshowe, in Zululand, in what the Hawks believe was a hit.
In the Kungwane case, self-confessed triggerman Jerry Thipe states in a confession letter seen by City Press that he was approached by former Madibeng municipal ANC chief whip Solly Malete to “remove” Kungwane. Malete has denied the allegations. Thipe stated in the confession letter that he agreed to the “request and charged him [Malete]” R35 000 to carry out the hit.
“He [Malete] asked me to charge a less [sic] amount and I told him I would be assisted by two friends,” Thipe wrote in the letter.
Thipe further alleges in the confession that Malete paid R15 000 as a deposit for the suspects to carry out the hit.
Thipe states in the document, dated September 2014, that he kept an eye on Kungwane’s home and when he arrived at his driveway, they attacked him when he tried to open the gate.
“I shot him with my firearm on the left side of his chest and he fell on the ground.”
According to Thipe, his co-accused – Peter Nhlapo and Sfiso Manana – left the scene after the incident.
Manana appeared before the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrates’ Court last week, facing a charge of murder.
But he will not be in the dock with his fellow accused as he has turned state witness.
He is expected to testify against his co-accused in the trial, which has had 28 postponements since the first arrests.
Thipe’s statement further revealed that after Kungwane was killed, the three contacted Malete, a former councillor in Oskraal, for the balance of the amount. They were never paid the full amount. Approached for comment, Malete, now an ANC North West provincial executive member, said he had not seen the confession letter or received any summons to appear in court.
“I haven’t seen the confession letter or received any subpoena to appear in court,” said Malete.
“I am going to deal with anyone who is spreading such lies through a civil claim after the case has been concluded.”
Speaking on behalf of the Kungwane family, Mmaabo Lelaka, younger sister of the deceased, said her brother’s death haunted the family. “We still ask ourselves why he had to die that way,” she said. “My brother was like a father to all of us. His death remains a shock to us and we have been waiting for justice to take its course.
“It has been five years that the case has been postponed, and each time we attend to ensure that we are informed of any [new] developments,” she said.
National Prosecuting Authority North West spokesperson Frank Lesenyego could not say why Malete had not been arrested or questioned despite the existence of the confession implicating him.
“The matter is sub judice and we can’t divulge merits or demerits of the case,” said Lesenyego.
“If there is information regarding the arrest of any person, the SA Police Service will be in a better position to respond.”
In May 2005, while still secretary of the local community association and ANC chief whip in the Madibeng municipal council, Malete announced at a community meeting that platinum deposits had been discovered in Oskraal.
Prior to his death, Kungwane had discovered a document in which a private company, MKR Bakwena Tribal Minerals, claimed it had obtained the prospecting rights for the platinum in Oskraal and four other tribal areas, and had ceded them to the soccer boss, whose name is known to City Press.
It is believed this is why Kungwane was killed.
ON GUARD Police patrol Maponya Mall in Soweto at the weekend