|Views from the News|
|‘COME see! We have slaughtered two cows!"
26 February 2012
Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Stephan Hofstatter and Rob Rose
With these words, the men of Cato Manor’s serious and violent crimes unit invited neighbours in a rural village near Melmoth, in northern KwaZulu-Natal, to view the bodies of two men they had allegedly just shot and killed.
The naked body of Bongani Velapi Biyela, 41, lay sprawled on a patch of grass outside his rondavel.
Inside another home, 18-year-old Khanyisani Buthelezi’s corpse lay in a pool of blood.
Relatives present at the time said this week that Biyela and Buthelezi had been "executed" by the policemen – and recounted how they callously celebrated afterwards.
The unit – which was disbanded this week – fell under the ultimate command of provincial Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen, who is fighting his suspension.
In December the Sunday Times exposed how the unit operated as an alleged hit squad, with witnesses claiming they "executed" suspects and then held booze-fuelled parties.
This sparked an Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) probe into 51 suspicious deaths – including those of Biyela and Buthelezi.
This week the Sunday Times interviewed Makhosazana Biyela, the wife of Bongani Biyela. In December we published a photograph that showed her weeping while some of the policemen sat next to her drinking beer and celebrating after her husband’s murder.
Makhosazana said her husband was shot in the early hours of the morning on November 22 2008, after he had gone outside, unarmed, in his boxer shorts to investigate a noise .
She said she was assaulted by three officers searching for weapons in her room. She then heard gunshots outside.
She said she was made to lie down in a police car while the homestead was ransacked.
The police found a licensed handgun and a spear.
She said by the time she was released the policemen were celebrating with beer bought with R4100 they had taken from the family.
"They were laughing and clapping when they told me: ‘We have killed Bongani.’ That’s when I collapsed," she said.
"Then they kicked me and said: ‘Go and see your husband. Go shake his hand.’"
On November 28 2008, an official police statement described Biyela’s death as a "police success".
It said Biyela and Buthelezi were cash-in-transit heist suspects and had been shot in self-defence after they came out of their room "guns blazing".
But several other relatives this week told a different tale.
Biyela’s niece, Happy Biyela, said the policemen were drinking by the time she was let out of her home at about 7am. "They said: ‘Where’s your cattle? We want to choose one for a braai’."
She saw an officer defecating in one of the huts, she said. "He used a lady’s dress to wipe his [behind]," she said.
According to others, the unit’s Warrant Officer Paul ‘Mossie’ Mostert urged bystanders to examine the bodies saying: "View the cows we have slaughtered."
They also said that, three months earlier, Mostert had threatened Biyela when he was released from prison after a case against him was withdrawn at Durban Magistrate’s Court.
"Mostert and other Cato Manor guys surrounded us in the courthouse and Mostert said to Bongani: ‘You can go home now but I am going to kill you’," said his nephew, Nsindiso Biyela.
On the day of the shooting, unit members threatened to kill them if they laid a complaint against them, he said.
"They said they would wipe out all the males in the family, including the children. For two years we stayed with relatives. We were too scared to sleep here because we thought they are going to come and kill us."
On Friday the ICD confirmed that an ICD investigator had gone to the scene in 2008 but Biyela’s family "would not cooperate". Spokesman Moses Dlamini said the ICD found out later that the family had been "threatened not to speak to anyone" .
Contacted for comment, Mostert said he had "nothing to hide" and asked to discuss the case "man to man".
He insisted on meeting at the deserted end of a shopping mall parking lot in Malvern, Durban, where a fellow Cato Manor member, later introduced as Warrant Officer Mac Makhanya, took pictures of Sunday Times reporters with his cellphone.
Mostert refused to answer any questions relating to his alleged role in the deaths . "These matters are sub judice – that’s all I want to tell you," he said.
At the same time, relatives of Kwazi Ndlovu – a teen allegedly shot by Mostert in questionable circumstances on April 1 2010 at Esikhawini in northern KwaZulu-Natal – are pushing for a formal inquest into his death.
Ndlovu’s father, Sibusiso Ndlovu, said: "I want justice for my son’s death. He was killed by Mostert just five days after celebrating his 16th birthday. They said they were looking for dangerous prisoners who escaped from Westville Prison but my son wasn’t an escapee or a criminal – he was a Grade 10 pupil at school."
Ndlovu claimed the police kicked in the door of his home at about 2.30am, shot his son and planted a gun next to his body. "We never owned any gun," he added. The family’s lawyer, Robin Palmer, said: "We are waiting for the National Prosecuting Authority to open a formal inquest on the matter as there are witnesses who can testify that the boy was shot while lying on the couch, contrary to police reports that he was armed."
How an undercover cop bust child sex slave ring
26 February 2012
AT least six months of undercover work by a Durban policeman led to the rescue of 15 young girls – who were drugged and used as sex slaves – from a group of alleged human traffickers.
The covert work by Warrant Officer Cyril Freese of the Durban Organised Crime Unit snagged four suspects and led to the reunion of one girl with her family on Thursday.
The Inn-Town Holiday Lodge in Durban’s Point area became Freese’s second home as he patiently gathered intelligence about what was going on in the barricaded basement where the alleged victims were kept.
A team of several policemen, led by Freese, finally raided the venue last week and rescued the youngsters, who ranged in age from 13 to 18. Two, aged 13 and 14, are pregnant and, according to police, have opted to give birth.
It is reportedly the biggest human trafficking bust in KwaZulu-Natal.
In an interview this week, Freese, 40, who is a specialist investigator in human trafficking, with four similar cases of his before the courts, told of how he used to pose as a drug buyer to gain access to the brothel.
"We have been following information for some time that the girls were being kept at a certain place in the Point area," he said.
To ensure the information was accurate he entered the lair repeatedly – buying drugs.
"I had to do my own undercover work in order to make sure the information was correct. We went there and we purchased crack cocaine worth over R2000."
This, he said, was the same type of cocaine that was allegedly used to drug the teenagers.
Freese said police needed further "corroborating evidence" after the girls had claimed they were given a daily dose of drugs.
"The conditions were shocking … these girls were in a terrible state and were taken to hospital for detoxing. They’re just children, and it’s been very traumatic for them."
Freese believed the traffickers used drugs and alcohol to lure many of the girls from nightclubs.
Most came from the nearby townships of Umlazi, KwaMashu, Inanda and Hammarsdale.
Freese said: "The drugs were purchased from the main suspect and two runners. We also seized three of his vehicles."
On Friday Sandile Zweni, 37, Bhabha Dubazini, 29, Nonduzo Dlamini, 23, and 59-year-old Urmila Budram appeared briefly in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on charges of trafficking for the purposes of prostitution, keeping a brothel, drug dealing and selling liquor without a licence.
Budram, the lodge’s manager, seemed relieved when the state withdrew charges against her. The remaining suspects have been remanded in custody at Westville Prison and will formally apply for bail on March 20.
A Durban doctor – whose identity is known to the Sunday Times – owns the building. He owns several other budget and up-market properties.
The police have not yet questioned him and he could not be reached for comment.
Police spokesman Vincent Mdunge said only one of the 15 girls had been reunited with her mother, following an appeal for families with missing children to come forward.
The girl’s mother positively identified the 16-year-old – who went missing from her Ntuzuma home two years ago – from a photograph taken by the police. Mdunge said mother and daughter were reunited at the organised crime offices late on Thursday.
"It was a very emotional reunion … it is amazing how alike they look."
The other girls are in safe houses being weaned off drugs and being given counselling. Police say the teenagers are too ashamed of revealing where they used to live.
Mdunge said Freese’s efforts had not gone unnoticed.
"The provincial commissioner has praised him in terms of not only being a good example to his colleagues, but also to society. I think it all boils down to his passion to save and rescue young children who are at risk."
But Freese’s investigations are far from over. He is now probing information that the accused are harbouring more young girls in other brothels in the city.
"There are other places that we’re still identifying," the warrant officer said.
"We have information that nine girls were chased out of a building in the city last Saturday."
Comrades ready to tackle rot
26 February 2012
PUBLIC Works Minister Thulas Nxesi has roped in five other cabinet ministers to help him clean out the rot in the troubled department.
Nxesi said on Friday he asked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana-Dlamini Zuma, Roy Padayachee of Public Service and Administration, Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti and Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Collins Chabane to assist him turn around the dysfunctional department.
The department, one of the worst run in the country, received a disclaimer from the auditor-general in the past financial year.
It has also been at the centre of controversy following revelations that some building leases were being entered into without following proper regulations.
Nxesi replaced Gwen Mahlangu-Nkabinde, one of the people fingered for breaking the rules by a public protector’s investigation into a lease agreement between the SAPS and controversial businessman Roux Shabangu. Nxesi admitted to the Sunday Times on Friday that his department was in a terrible state.
"All reports [from the Special Investigating Unit, the auditor-general and the public protector] have put us in a negative light. Clearly the brand Public Works is finished. We have to reconstruct the brand," he said.
Nxesi said the ministerial committee would be advised by senior bureaucrats from all six departments. "They will advise us on what to implement and how to implement it."
Nxesi also plans to strengthen the director-general’s office by deploying a team of full-time engineers, architects and experts in areas including monitoring and evaluation, risk management, public finances management, supply chain management and property management.
"They will monitor and support the short-term stabilisation initiatives to ensure we get value for money and that capacity is embedded in the department."
The findings of the review, Nxesi said, would form the basis of a "more systematic diagnostic" which would identify priority areas. The team would assist the department to verify the costs of building and renovating state buildings. He said contractors had inflated the costs as there were no proper controls and people with expertise in the department.
Nxesi’s department has approached the courts to declare the R500-million Pretoria SAPS building lease it signed with Shabangu’s company invalid.
He said the SIU investigation had helped them uncover more irregular leases that could be challenged in court. However, he refused to reveal how many such contracts have been identified and how much they are worth.
Public Works and the national Treasury would also conduct an audit of about 4000 leases the department has signed countrywide in an attempt to identify more irregular leases.
"It is very difficult to say what is genuine and what is not genuine … we want to check if they were properly awarded. Because those leases run into big money – we are talking R3.1-billion worth of leases – some are running for nine years. Some for five, six, seven years. We have to make sure we pay the right amount for those leases," he said.
Since taking over, Nxesi said five senior managers had been suspended in connection with allegations of corruption and maladministration.
"We believe more officials are implicated and investigations will lead to criminal prosecutions," Nxesi said.
"In this instance we have the support of all the stakeholders. The ANC is very clear in dealing with corruption. Government is very clear. Cosatu is very clear. Whoever is implicated, even if it means it is one of our own, they will have to be dealt with. I don’t think there will be controversies around that."
He said more than half of the senior managers were acting in their positions, including director-general Mandisa Fakeni. Since 2009, the department has had five directors-general.
Nxesi said his department cannot appoint a full-time director-general because Siviwe Dongwana – who was suspended by Mahlangu-Nkabinde in 2010 – was challenging his suspension in court.
"You can’t advertise this post until you have dealt with the matter of Dongwana. Because it is a legal matter, I can’t put time frames … I can only deal with this post only if I’ve settled this matter properly. (It’s either) the person comes back or I charge (him) and (he) goes away." He refused to say what action he was considering taking.
Little faith in judiciary, says survey
26 February 2012
AN alarming one third of South Africans have little confidence in the judiciary.
In a survey of 2000 adults in seven major metro areas, only 31% of respondents said they felt that the judiciary was impartial.
Another 31% felt that the judiciary was biased, while 38% would not express an opinion on the matter.
The survey was conducted by TNS in November last year following the controversy over the appointment of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng.
Constitutional expert Professor Pierre de Vos of the University of Cape Town said the result was in line with previous surveys.
He said there was "a good reason" many people felt the courts were not as independent and impartial as they should be. "Most South Africans do not have access to the courts because it is a bit expensive," he said.
When participants were asked whether judges were biased towards the government, 38% said they were and 27% disagreed. Others said they did not have an opinion on this.
A total of 34% said they felt that there had not been enough transformation in the judiciary – while 24% thought the judiciary was sufficiently transformed.
De Vos said it was worrying that there seemed to be little trust and confidence in the judiciary.
He said: "It is important that there should be some level of legitimacy and trust in the courts for them to work properly."
He added that ordinary citizens still needed to be educated about how South Africa’s institutional democracy functioned.
"We are a young democracy and people do not always accept or understand that, in such a system, the court will sometimes rule against an institution, an entity or a political party that they might support," said De Vos.
Cops red-faced after suspect’s elaborate slip
26 February 2012
A MARTIAL arts expert caught with tons of illegal ivory gave local police the slip and travelled abroad seven times – despite his passport having been confiscated and being under strict bail conditions.
Red-faced police in Cape Town are now investigating how Chinese-born Xiong Changsen pulled his Houdini-like stunt. Changsen has been living in the city under bail conditions that compelled him to report and sign in at the Sea Point police station every Monday and Friday.
His passport was locked away when, in April 2008, the courts granted him R20000 bail after he was arrested and charged with being in possession of 9113kg of ivory and stolen items.
But the 41-year-old kung fu instructor, the Sunday Times has established, allegedly found a way to bypass authorities and flew to China seven times over two years before he was found out.
It appears that someone reported to the police station twice a week – while border records showed that Changsen was out of the country.
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said the matter was handed over to the Hawks for investigation. "Handwriting samples from the bail condition register were obtained for comparison and sent to forensics," said Traut.
Home affairs also confirmed that a probe was conducted. Spokesman Manusha Pillai said: "Since the government does not issue passports to permanent residents, Mr Changsen continues to travel on a Chinese passport."
While police records showed that Changsen reported to the station religiously, records unearthed by home affairs indicated that he left the country seven times in 2010 and 2011. His trips abroad include one a day before the 2010 Soccer World Cup kicked off. He returned 14 days later. Between September and October 2010, he was away for 28 days. Changsen was granted permanent residency in 2007 and will apply for bail at the Khayelitsha Priority Crimes Court on Tuesday.
He was arrested for a second time in a flat in Ocean View on December 20 last year while allegedly carving ornaments from ivory. A suspicious neighbour who smelled "burning hair" called the police who found R800000 worth of ivory, foreign currency, laptops and cellphones. They also arrested a second man, Xiaolin Xing. Changsen will return to court on March 6. He is in custody at Pollsmoor Prison.
Hawks boss in KZN fights move to suspend him
26 February 2012
KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen is desperately fighting a bid to suspend him.
Initially served with a "notice of intention to suspend" him two weeks ago, Booysen won an interdict in the Durban Labour Court on Friday preventing the Hawks from carrying out the suspension.
His lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, said: "We wanted more details about what they say he did wrong. [This order] compels them to give us the information we require before March 1."
Though Booysen is not a suspect in the 51 suspicious killings being investigated by the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), he is accused of not acting in cases of alleged misconduct involving the unit.
A number of the Cato Manor police have also been given a "notice of intention to suspend" them on the grounds of using excessive force. They are also being represented by Van der Merwe.
In his defence, Booysen has shifted the blame for not knowing about the deaths to Colonel Rajen Aiyer. He said Aiyer headed the unit at the time. But Aiyer, ironically, reported directly to Booysen.
Aiyer told the Sunday Times he had tried to close the unit several times, but had been blocked by Booysen.
"I have documentary proof for it, but General Booysen ordered me not to [close the unit]," he said.
Aiyer said he was repeatedly "undermined" by Booysen, with the unit "taking orders from General Booysen and reporting directly to him".
"I am sick and tired of General Booysen slandering my good name in the media … [he] was my senior and I reported everything to him and followed his orders."
In one case, Aiyer said, taxi owner Bongani Mkhize was gunned down by the unit in Durban’s Umgeni Road in February 2009 – after Mkhize had successfully obtained an extraordinary court interdict to stop the police "unlawfully killing, injuring, threatening or harassing him".
Booysen arrived at the scene of the murder shortly afterwards, according to Aiyer, who said: "How did [he] get to crime scene without me? [Booysen] went to the crime scene and I didn’t."
Asked why the Hawks had not provided Booysen with detailed reasons for his suspension, as alleged in his court application, spokesman McIntosh Polela said it was an "internal matter".
Polela rejected claims that the suspensions of the policemen would lead to a crime spree in the city.
"It is foolhardy to suggest that the removal of a small number of policemen … will result in a province being overrun by criminals." – Mzilikazi wa Afrika, Stephan Hofstatter, Rob Rose
Human Trafficking prevalent in South Africa
The New Age
27 February 2012
The recent kidnapping of a South African woman by her Pakistani husband’s family in Pakistan, and her subsequent rescue by Pakistani authorities and South African officials, has highlighted the problem of human trafficking.
While the issue of South African women marrying abusive foreigners and being cut off from the outside world is serious, there are other, more prevalent forms of human trafficking.
South Africa is used by human traffickers as a source, transit point and destination country for the trafficking of men, women and children.
While the trafficking of people into South Africa is a bigger problem than the trafficking of people outside of the country, there is also internal trafficking.
European, Asian, and African women are brought into the country for commercial sex exploitation, domestic servitude and service sector jobs, while South African women are moved around internally in the country for the same purposes.
Boys and young men from southern African countries including Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are trafficked into South Africa to be used as a form of cheap labour on farms, sometimes working months without being paid by the farmers.
The farmers are able to exploit the boys as many of them are illegal immigrants and the boys are unlikely to complain to the authorities, as the farmers may have them arrested and deported if they do.
The Human Sciences Research Council conducted a research on the issue on behalf of the South African government’s National Prosecuting Authority and identified a number of factors and patterns defining human trafficking in the country.
• South Africa is a destination county for long-distance flows for people (mainly women) trafficked from Thailand, Philippines, India, China, Bulgaria, Romania, Russia and the Ukraine. The main point of entry of this trafficking stream is OR Tambo airport in Johannesburg.
• People are trafficked from within Africa across the extensive land borders of South Africa, mostly from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, and to a lesser extent Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho.
• Longer-distance trafficking involve victims trafficked from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Rwanda, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Somalia. All documented cases in this last category are women trafficked for both sexual and labour exploitation.
• The largest movement of trafficked people is from rural areas to cities.
• Trafficking of South Africans out of the country is less of a problem, but eight cases were identified between January 2004 and January 2008. Destination countries included Ireland, Zimbabwe, Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Macau.
In all cases, the victims were women trafficked for either sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or forced marriages.
The perpetrators include large organised crime networks involving South African men with a former military background. Criminal drug, smuggling and weapons groups are mainly behind the trafficking.
Points of destination for victims of trafficking in South Africa are the major cities, where the greatest demand exists, and towns and cities close to national borders.
Some of the most disturbing factors are the collusion of border and immigration officials through bribery, and lax border controls, which enable illegal transportation.
Motata appeals against judicial tribunal
The New Age – Sapa
27 February 2012
Convicted drunk driving Judge Nkola Motata has appealed to the courts to stop Justice Minister Jeff Radebe from appointing a judicial conduct tribunal to investigate him, according to a report on Monday.
Motata, who was found guilty of drunk driving in 2009, is attempting to ask the court to find an investigation into his conduct unconstitutional and unlawful, The Sowetan newspaper reported.
In court papers lodged in the Pretoria High Court on Friday, Motata claimed there was no provision in the Constitution that allowed the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) to decide what constituted misconduct.
In its responding affidavit, the JSC said Motata’s application had no merit and it did in fact have the power to investigate gross misconduct charges.
Motata is appealing to get back his job as a high court judge. He was placed on special leave in 2010 pending an appeal against his guilty verdict.
Civil rights group AfriForum has filed papers asking the court to rule that Motata be permanently removed as judge. It claimed his conduct had been brought into question when making racial utterances at the scene of his drunk driving car crash.
Hawks bill: not nearly independent enough
26 February 2012
Charl du Plessis
The battle for the independence of the Hawks will start afresh this week, after police on Friday tabled a bill in Parliament that will likely attempt to keep the elite crime-fighting unit within the police.
A Constitutional Court judgment last year found that the crime-fighting unit was insufficiently independent from political influence to operate as a graft-busting unit, a situation the court ordered Parliament to rectify.
The decision to disband the Scorpions – located within the National Prosecuting Authority – and replace them with the Hawks unit, under the authority of the police, came into effect in 2009.
The decision was the result of a resolution adopted by the ANC at its Polokwane Conference in 2007, at which Jacob Zuma was also elected president of the party.
The law was immediately challenged by businessperson Hugh Glenister, who argued that the decision was taken because the Scorpions had been investigating Zuma for corruption.
Late on Friday afternoon, the police tabled the South African Police Service Amendment Bill in Parliament.
In the Government Gazette notice, the department says the bill seeks to “align the provisions relating to the (Hawks) in order to ensure that the directorate has the operational independence to fulfil its mandate without undue interference”.
Zweli Mnisi, department of police spokesperson, said that the Constitutional Court judgment did “not require us to establish a structure outside the SAPS and create another (Scorpions unit)”.
“Parliament will still have to embark on a consultation process so the public will be welcome to make submissions to the parliamentary committee on any issue”, he said.
But Glenister told City Press he was “flabbergasted” that the police believed the Hawks could be independent if they were located within the police.
Paul Hoffman (SC), Glenister’s lawyer, said that the Hawks would be “insufficiently independent” if placed under the police.
“Mr Glenister will allow Parliament to consider the bill, make the representations he thinks are important but if he is not happy with what comes out he will take it back to the judges,” said Hoffman.
The Constitutional Court judgment gives Parliament until September 18 to ensure the independence of the Hawks, although it does not expressly require the unit be located outside the police.
Johan Burger, of the Institute for Security Studies, said it would be a “challenge to ensure sufficient independence if the police retain the (Hawks) within the police unit”, but that Parliament would have to decide whether this would meet the requirements of the judgment.
According to the summary of the bill published in the Government Gazette, it seeks to deal with the powers of the Ministerial Committee to issue guidelines to the Hawks on investigations, referral of cases by the National Commissioner of Police, the job security of the head of the Hawks and an oath of office to be taken by members of the unit.
Prison head charged with rape
26 February 2012
The head of Zonderwater Medium B prison near Pretoria has been arrested and charged with rape – and it’s not his first brush with the law.
Tivane Makasane was arrested and charged on December 29 last year as the prison he runs was making headlines for releasing two of the Waterkloof Four murderers.
City Press has learned that Makasane was previously convicted of culpable homicide while running the prison.
Questions are now being raised about how, two years after his 2003 culpable homicide conviction, Makasane was allowed to take up his old position again.
A source at the department of correctional services told City Press the woman who laid the rape charge against Makasane was considering withdrawing the case because she was scared.
In 2001 Makasane was involved in a car accident that claimed a life in Cullinan, east of Pretoria. He was convicted of culpable homicide in 2003 and sentenced to three years in prison.
But according to official department records, Makasane only spent five days at the Pretoria Correctional Centre between February 21 and 26 2003.
He was released on bail pending his appeal against the conviction and sentence.
Correctional services spokesperson Phumlani Ximiya said Makasane’s appeal was successful and his sentence was reduced to a fine.
Two years later, in May 2005, Makasane took up his old job.
Gauteng police spokesperson Lungelo Dlamini confirmed that Makasane was arrested on December 29 last year on a rape charge.
When he appeared in the Cullinan Magistrates Court on the charge, police could not provide details of his 2003 conviction and Makasane was released on R1 000 bail.
He returned to work and remains on duty.
On Friday he told City Press, “I can’t answer your questions.” He hung up and did not respond to further requests for comment.
A prison official who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity questioned how Makasane’s conviction was not seen as a deterrent when he was vetted in 2005 for a return to his job.
Makasane will appear in court again on Tuesday to face the rape charge.
Crash families reject driver’s ‘blood money’
26 February 2012
Jody Phillips died instantly on the way to school in a taxi ripped apart by an oncoming passenger train.
But two and a half years later, he lives on in his family’s Cape Town home.
He’s in the lounge where a shrine of flowers, cards and photographs is painstakingly restored every time it’s upset by a gust of wind coming through the front door.
He’s in the kitchen, where his sandwiches, a chocolate and a juice – recovered from the horrific crash wreckage – have been preserved in the freezer.
He’s also in his bedroom, which looks almost the same as it did on August 25 2010 when the 13-year-old boy grabbed his school bag and dashed out the front door for the very last time.
All his clothes and possessions, including his PlayStation and soccer games, remain the way he left them.
There are a few new additions, dotingly chosen by his mother, Valerie (46), during special shopping expeditions. The most noticeable is a brightly coloured bedspread bought last month. Jody would have loved the colours, she says.
There’s a strong sense that this is how the Phillips home will remain long after taxi driver Jacob Humphreys (56) is sentenced this week in the Western Cape High Court for the murder of the 10 children who died in his vehicle and the attempted murder of four who survived.
Humphreys was ferrying the children to school when he overtook a row of waiting cars and zigzagged through the closed booms at the Buttskop level crossing in Blackheath while a train was approaching.
He was convicted late last year.
There have been days when Valerie Phillips has wanted to kill herself. On others she hasn’t been able to leave her bed. She’s on medication for depression. She has anxiety attacks. Sometimes the pains in her chest are so severe she fights for breath.
She also feels guilty.
The weekend before the crash, Jody was rushed to hospital after being knocked unconscious while captaining his Under-14 school rugby team. He was later discharged in a neck brace and booked off school for a week.
“Jody stayed home the Monday,” recalls a tearful Valerie. “But on Tuesday he said, ‘Mommy, I’m feeling okay.
Can I go to school?’ I said it was fine with me because we were both worried about exams.”
Valerie was getting son Kaedy (5) ready for school when she heard Humphreys hoot.
“Every morning we kissed goodbye. That was our rule. He would kiss me, his daddy and his brother. We were a very close family. That was the first morning he didn’t kiss us goodbye. He just grabbed his bag and ran.”
It is clear that Humphreys’ actions on August 25 and beyond have wrecked entire families. Most of them are still too traumatised to speak about their pain.
Humphreys, who appears to be in deep denial, has not apologised or shown remorse for his actions.
This week, his victims’ families were infuriated when the defence’s presentencing report in mitigation of sentence suggested Humphreys serve a suspended sentence of five years.
The defence’s report recommended that Humphreys offer monetary compensation for medical expenses and schooling, take part in restorative justice and submit to correctional supervision.
Valerie rejects the idea.
“Even if he gives me a million rand, I don’t want it. That money will constantly remind me of what happened to my son. I don’t want a cent from him. I don’t want his blood money.”
Integrity tests planned for cop investigators
26 February 2012
Members of the newly-established Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) – the body which keeps cops in line – will have to undergo “integrity tests” to make sure they’re fit for the job.
The law governing the directorate, gazetted on February 12, gives executive director Francois Beukman the power to order his investigators to “test the integrity” of their colleagues by having their breath, urine and blood examined by a doctor.
The directorate, which replaces the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), will insist that the investigators’ “integrity tests” take place within three months of them starting work. If investigators refuse to comply, they will have to provide reasons.
ICD investigators did not have to undergo these tests.
The directorate’s Moses Dlamini said the tests would ensure that IPID investigators were beyond reproach and of the highest calibre and integrity.
According to the gazetted law, an investigator who refuses to undergo tests risks being charged with disobeying a lawful order.
If an investigator fails a polygraph test, or the results indicate possible deception, security screening by the country’s intelligence services and disciplinary action will follow.
The directorate will provide for an investigator who fails an integrity test to undergo counselling, rehabilitation and retraining.
The IPID has promised to conduct the tests with “due regard to decency and the right of a member to dignity and privacy”.
In another move sure to attract public support, investigators will have to update complainants and victims at least once a month about progress in their cases.
The directorate is to be officially launched on April 1.
Brutal murder shatters family circle
26 February 2012
In January 2010, 17-year-old Keegan Govender had just passed matric.
He had also allegedly just used a spade to kill family friend Gansen Gounden after the older man made a pass at Govender’s girlfriend, 23-year-old Michelle Nadasen.
Govender then allegedly buried Gounden’s body under a mango tree in Nadasen’s backyard while her father, Ram Reddy – the dead man’s close friend and relative through marriage – slept.
Four days later Govender allegedly dug up Gounden’s body and threw it into the nearby Nseleni River.
When the corpse was discovered by police the next day, crocodiles were circling. They had eaten half the body already.
This week Govender sat in the dock at Mtunzini on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, listening to friends and family members testify against him.
Wearing a checked shirt, khaki pants and designer takkies, he smiled at his parents sitting in the public gallery behind him.
Judge Mohini Murugasen appeared almost motherly as she urged the young man to pay attention while his lawyer Willie Lombard read admissions about the discovery of Gounden’s corpse for the court record.
Govender’s lover was not there to listen. Nadasen is serving a 25-year sentence for murder in Eshowe prison after pleading guilty in a separate trial. She has turned against the teenager who family members say was obsessed with her.
Last November Nadasen told the court that Gounden had groped her. She told Govender about it and the pair decided to kill him, she testified.
According to Nadasen’s version of events, she lured Gounden to her house and Govender used a spade to murder him.
This week Ram Reddy told the court he had woken up on January 7 to find Govender loading a rubbish bin into his father’s bakkie.
“I asked him what he was doing with my bin because there was no dirt in it and he said he was doing garden services.
“When I opened the bin a foul smell emerged from the bin. I saw white pants and takkies. I was so shocked … I fainted,’’ Reddy testified.
He told the court his daughter, Gino Naidoo, called police and officers arrested Nadasen and Govender a little while later.
Two friends and neighbours, Morgan Chetty and Diedre Naidoo, testified that Govender had told them he had killed somebody and asked for help. Both refused, but neither went to the police.
Every day, members of the Govender, Gounden and Reddy families greet each other – but keep their distance when it comes to choosing seats.
Three decades of being friends, neighbours and relatives mean nothing now.
“Once we were all one big family,’’ Gino Naidoo told City Press during a visit to the murder house on the corner of Golden Fern Road, where the mango tree has been hacked to a stump and burned.
“Now our children don’t see their aunties and uncles any more. That’s all been killed off.”
Gounden’s brother Morgan was shattered by the murder. He is raising his brother’s children, who are 12 and nine.
“We meet the other families every day when we come to court. It’s not easy,” Morgan Gounden said this week.
“The friendship, the family is not the same any more. We greet but that’s it. Things will never be the same for us.
“This is a small community and this issue ended up being discussed in the churches, in the community organisations. All we want is for the trial to be over so we can get answers and end this. This is very hard.
Cele hails start of inquiry hearings
27 February 2012
Suspended national police commissioner Bheki Cele says he will be present when the board of inquiry set up to weigh allegations against him has its first hearing next Monday.
Cele told The Star on Sunday he was glad the inquiry was finally getting under way.
The hearings – which will be open to the public – will take place at the building housing the City of Tshwane’s municipal offices, Munitoria.
Chaired by Judge Jake Moloi, the hearings were to have started this month, but were delayed.
President Jacob Zuma announced the board of inquiry in October, in the wake of Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s findings that Cele’s role involving R1.7 billion leases for police headquarters in Pretoria and Durban was improper and unlawful.
Since his suspension, Cele has been drawing his full salary and benefits. He said on Sunday he was “just fine”.
“I sleep, go to gym, I read, see my relatives. I do all the things I didn’t have time to do when I was busy.”
He spent December in Durban. “I went to the beach, I visited the townships, it was nice.”
Cele would not disclose who would be representing him at the hearings, except to say that he had a legal team. On the nature of his submission, Cele said: “Those are legal matters and for now I would want them to remain legal matters.”
He shared Judge Moloi’s desire for the hearings to be dealt with speedily.
DA spokeswoman on police Dianne Kohler Barnard on Sunday visited the Berea police station in Durban to make a sworn statement of her submission to the inquiry.
While the board’s mandate is to inquire into whether or not Cele acted corruptly, or failed to prevent finance laws being breached in the signing of the leases for SAPS offices in Pretoria and Durban, the DA’s submission included information that raised questions about Cele’s fitness for the position, Kohler Barnard said.
This included Cele signing off on the purchase of a R4m residence and luxury furnishings for himself.
Other issues raised by the DA in Kohler Barnard’s submission include:
* An increase in SAPS irregular expenditure from R2.5m to R76m for the 2010/11 financial year.
* Improper tendering procedure and R13.6m irregular expenditure on the national police days in 2010 and 2011, including R12m spent on performing artists.
* Alleged abuse of pension payouts for SAPS members amounting to R31.2m over the last two years.
5 govt officials held for fraud
27 February 2012
Five high-ranking government officials in the Eastern Cape and Joburg have been arrested after an investigation into fraud and corruption involving R11 million, the Eastern Cape health department said.
“Their arrest follows an internal investigation which was later handed over to the police, relating to services procured but not rendered and proper processes not being followed,” said department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo.
A City of Johannesburg manager Lawrence Boya was arrested on Friday and had already appeared in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court, Kupelo said.
He was a former superintendent general in the Eastern Cape health department.
The director and a deputy director of a health department in the impoverished province, plus two businessmen, were arrested in the Eastern Cape on Sunday.
They would appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Monday. The charges against them would be fraud and corruption totalling R11.8m, Kupelo said.
The arrests were part of a series of investigations into corruption and fraud taking place in the Eastern Cape.
The overall amount involved was R14m, but the charges against the five related to the R11.8m.
The procurement was for business plans.
In a separate investigation, officials are working on the non-delivery of R11m worth of hospital equipment that was procured, but not delivered.
“A few other officials are being investigated for that,” said Kupelo.
The department had also given the police information on a probe into a R13m ambulance contract.
“We welcome the arrests and we want to say to all officials – ex and current – that fraud and corruption will never be tolerated by the department.
“We cannot afford a situation where money supposed to assist out people is lost – we cannot afford to lose one cent.”
In September, 42 staff members in the province’s health department were fired for a range of offences including theft and fraud.
An investigation also showed that over 100 department officials had companies that traded with the department.
A report by the auditing form PricewaterhouseCoopers found at least R45m had been lost to fraud in the health department over the past years.
Woman nabbed in money-for-jobs scam
27 February 2012
A 53-YEAR-OLD Lebowakgomo woman in Limpopo has been arrested for allegedly defrauding unsuspecting job-seekers of their money
Members of the Hawks received a tip-off that the woman had been swindling people of their money after promising them jobs.
The woman allegedly charged each of the 11 people R1000 and promised them jobs as clerks, receptionists or drivers in the department of agriculture in Lebowakgomo.
According to police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Mohale Ramatseba the woman pretended she worked for the department.
Ramatseba said the woman was arrested after police set a trap for her.
"We arrested the suspect on Friday and charged her with fraud. She will appear in the Thabamoopo Magistrate’s court (today)."
Ramatseba said preliminary investigations revealed that the woman had worked for the department before.
"We want to sensitise members of the community to con artists who are targeting desperate job-seekers with the intention of defrauding them of their money. We also want to remind community members that job opportunities in government are mostly advertised and no money is required when one applies for these jobs," he said.
He urged the public to report people they come across masquerading as recruiting agents who wanted money in advance.