Four on trial af­ter min­is­ter hi­jacked

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - SHAIN GERMANER

FOR sev­eral hours, Deputy Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Tha­bang Mak­wetla lay face­down in the back seat of an un­known car as four armed men barked or­ders at him, threat­en­ing his life.

Af­ter his bank ac­counts were raided, Mak­wetla’s kid­nap­ping ordeal ended as he was or­dered to run into a stretch of veld in Brits in the North West.

He was sure that he was go­ing to be mur­dered.

But now that the men have been ar­rested – po­lice are in­ves­ti­gat­ing their sup­posed links to a syn­di­cate re­spon­si­ble for a spate of house rob­beries and hi­jack­ings across Gaut­eng – Mak­wetla has spo­ken for the first time about his ex­pe­ri­ence.

He ar­rived at the Rand­burg Mag­is­trate’s Court ear­lier this week, af­ter hav­ing recog­nised his al­leged as­sailants in an iden­tity pa­rade last month.

Mak­wetla told In­de­pen­dent Media he was relieved that two of the ac­cused, Mo­jalefa Mathe and Mot­sepe Gid­ion, had cho­sen to aban­don their bail at­tempt.

On May 21, Mak­wetla was in the park­ing lot of the Life River­field Lodge in Four­ways around 7pm when he saw four armed men storm­ing out of their ve­hi­cle, their faces only half con­cealed.

He had ini­tially thought the men were about to rob the hospi­tal, as they con­fronted two se­cu­rity guards on the premises. “I only re­alised when a gun was pointed at my head that the rob­bery was di­rected at me,” he said.

The as­sailants forced him into the back of his Range Rover, where he was told to lie face down on the back seat.

It was only af­ter about an hour that they ar­rived at their first des­ti­na­tion, where they trans­ported him from his own ve­hi­cle to an­other car and de­manded his bank cards.

They drove him to what he be­lieved was a shop­ping com­plex, where they with­drew money from an ATM.

Then, they drove again for at least an­other hour, along a high­way, eventually tak­ing an off-ramp into the veld.

When they forced him out of the car, the men opened the boot of the ve­hi­cle. Mak­wetla was sur­prised to see the hospi­tal se­cu­rity guards had also been kid­napped.

The trio were taken out of the car and or­dered to walk in the op­po­site di­rec­tion. “They said we must run and at that point I thought, they would now be shoot­ing at us, ex­e­cut­ing us. For­tu­nately… they got into their car and sped off.”

On Tues­day, Mathe, Gid­ion, Bran­don Katlego Mashego and Ben Ku­tumela ap­peared briefly for their pro­ceed­ings, and the case was post­poned for the State to com­plete its in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Gid­ion is re­port­edly also on trial for the rob­bery of so­cial ac­tivist Yusuf Abram­jee’s home in 2013, and was out on bail when the deputy min­is­ter was hi­jacked.

PIC­TURE: BONGIWE MCHUNU

Deputy Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Tha­bang Mak­wetla has re­lated his nightmare hi­jack­ing ordeal, which oc­curred last month.

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