Police are closing in on the alleged mastermind behind Senzo Meyiwa’s murder after stumbling upon a trail of social media messages that appear to link his alleged killers to at least two people close to him.
This week’s court appearance of five suspects in connection with the Bafana Bafana captain’s murder follows a breakthrough by a new team of detectives, led by Col Bongani Gininda, who were appointed in January by national police commissioner Lt-Gen Khehla Sitole.
The prosecution told the Boksburg magistrate’s court that Meyiwa was killed in a botched robbery, but sources told the Sunday Times this week that they believe it was a contract killing.
At the time of his October 2014 murder, the star goalkeeper was estranged from his wife, Mandisa, and involved in a relationship with Afropop star Kelly Khumalo.
The Sunday Times understands that other information, obtained from what sources would only say were social media messages that police unearthed during the questioning of two suspects, suggests that:
– Communication between the five accused, the middlemen and the mastermind allegedly began nearly four months before Meyiwa’s murder and continued two weeks after the killing;
– The five men who appeared in court this week are alleged members of a notorious taxi hit squad operating in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal;
– The five allegedly fell out with each other over payment for Meyiwa’s murder; and
– The gun used to kill Meyiwa has been linked to five other murders, which occurred as far back as 2011.
Meyiwa’s uncle, Siyabonga Meyiwa, said the family had “recently learnt of the messages” from the police.
“We have been made aware of the communications which took place between the accused and the alleged mastermind and others … There is good evidence which links people. It shows people talking to each other,” he said.
The Sunday Times has further learnt that since the appointment of the new investigation team, a vast amount of information has been unearthed.
Since February, the detectives have scoured the social media data with the help of cyber and telecommunication experts.
They have also been trawling through documents, including the investigation diaries of previous investigators, ballistics reports, witness statements, reports on DNA from a dreadlock ripped from the gunman’s head and clothing left at the scene, as well as information that Meyiwa’s father, Sam, gave the former investigators five years ago.
Sitole, who in 2018 established the South African Police Service’s Cold Case Unit — the unit that is now investigating the killing — is personally overseeing the probe after it ground to a halt.
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) sources also told the Sunday Times that days before the new detectives were appointed, national prosecutions head Shamila Batohi removed the original prosecutors, taking it from South Gauteng prosecutions chief Andrew Chauke and handing it to acting North Gauteng prosecutions boss George Baloyi.
The transfers followed almost six years of bungling, including the alleged failure by police to properly follow up tip-offs about the identities of two of the five accused.
Also apparently ignored was information about the murder of a sixth suspect in
KwaNongoma, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2016.
On Tuesday, Muzikawukhulelwa Sibiya, Bongani Ntanzi, Mthobisi Mncube, Mthokoziseni Maphisa and Fisokuhle Ntuli appeared in the dock charged with murder, attempted murder, armed robbery and various firearms-related charges.
All of the men were in prison when they were charged and will appear in court again on November 27.
Mncube, arrested in February 2015 for the murder of Alexandra taxi boss Reggie Mohlala, who he was convicted of killing with the same 9mm pistol allegedly used to kill Meyiwa, is serving a 30-year sentence for taxi industry-related murders in Ekurhuleni and KwaZulu-Natal, said an NPA source.
Ntanzi and Maphisa were in Gauteng’s Leeuwkop prison for taxi industry murders, and Ntuli is in prison awaiting trial for his alleged involvement in political killings.
Refusing to stand in the dock on Tuesday, Maphisa told the court: “The people who are supposed to be appearing before court are not here because they have money. It means the court will have to direct questions to me because I do not have money for legal representation.”
A police source with knowledge of the case said it was a 2015 tip-off from Sam
Meyiwa, who died in July last year, that led police to their first arrest — that of Sibiya.
Sibiya was first arrested on two attempted murder charges in March 2019 and skipped bail before he was re-arrested in Tembisa this year. Information from Sibiya then led to Ntanzi, a former miner in Rustenburg. The Sunday Times understands that Ntanzi and Sibiya implicated the others.
Police later discovered the pistol allegedly used to kill Meyiwa at the Cleveland police station in Johannesburg.
“Police, through ballistics, discovered it was used to kill Alexandra taxi boss Reggie Mohlala in January 2015, three months after
Meyiwa was shot with it,” said a source close to the investigation.
“It was meant to have been destroyed in 2017 after the Mohlala murder trial. Thank God it wasn’t, otherwise the murder weapon would never have been found,” said the source.
He added that during the questioning of
Sibiya and Ntanzi, detectives stumbled upon the social media communications.
“The information is between the person suspected to be the mastermind … and people who arranged the izinkabi [taxi hitmen], who are allegedly the five accused,” said the source.
“This data is a major breakthrough. Cyber-forensic experts are sifting through it. There’s a lot of work still to do, but it’s a breakthrough that could help in solving this crime.”
A confidential NPA instruction note to detectives accidentally attached to the indictment presented to the court moments before the appearance of the accused men states that the “cellphone records of Ms Kelly Khumalo indicating her communication with the accused must be obtained, as previously indicated.”
The note was written last week when the indictment was formulated.
Khumalo’s lawyer, Magdalene Moonsamy, said in a statement: “Our client is not implicated nor charged in this matter and is therefore not a suspect. We note that the so called “leaked document”, has been leaked with malicious intentions and urge that neither individuals nor other parties interrupt in the process of the investigation being undertaken by the police.”
Other requests the NPA made in the document, which do not relate to Khumalo, include that Gininda should file a statement detailing the events and circumstances leading to Sibiya and Ntanzi’s statements; obtain cellphone communications between the accused before, during and after the murder; and obtain outstanding DNA reports.
The DNA being sought is from Mncube, who sources said wore his hair in dreadlocks at the time of the murder.
Another source close to the investigation said that until January, the investigation was riddled with serious errors.
“We can’t say it was deliberate but there was definite negligence,” he said.
Advocate Gerrie Nel of AfriForum, who the Meyiwa family tasked in November last year with helping to solve the murder, said Sitole and Gininda’s team had done stellar work.
“It’s a really good investigating team. They have good evidence. We are confident that the killers are among the accused.
“From the onset we have said that this was not a botched robbery and that it was a contract killing,” he said. “Based on briefings we have had with the police, we are confident that this is still the case.”
NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema declined to answer detailed questions on the prosecutors’ instructions, saying this would compromise the investigation.
“The private note, which erroneously found itself to the media, is out of bounds,” he said. Asked why prosecutors were pursuing armed robbery charges, Ngwema said: “The NPA works with evidence. It can’t take unsubstantiated information to court.
“The NPA has not ruled out further arrests based on other possibilities.
“However, we cannot put suspicions on the charge sheet. We put facts, credible evidence. Lots of work still has to be done. The prosecution presented a provisional indictment, not a final one.”
From the onset we have said that this was not a botched robbery and that it was a contract killing.