Fake SA passport allegations surround 'killer' of Rwanda's ex-spy boss
Patrick Karegeya’s alleged killer entered South Africa on a fake passport, according to close friends of the slain former Rwandan spy chief.
Did Patrick Karegeya's alleged killer enter South Africa on a fake passport? And had he done so before?
Yes, according to close friends of the former Rwandan spy boss, whose body was found in a Sandton hotel room on New Year's Day.
If Karegeya's friends and colleagues are correct, it would indicate an intelligence failure on the part of South African authorities. Political asylum seekers such as Karegeya claim the South African authorities had offered them protection. Meanwhile, an alleged agent of the Paul Kagame regime was frequently in their midst, evading airport security checks with false documents, and courting their inner circle with a view to commit murder.
Rwanda's ambassador to South Africa Vincent Karega, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, distanced Kigali from Karageya's death.
"Even though he [Karageya] declared himself an enemy of Rwanda, we didn't see any threat. Rwanda wasn't involved," he said.
One clear suspect
A department of home affairs's spokesperson referred queries about the false passport claims to that department's director general, who could not be reached on Sunday.
Hawks spokesperson Captain Paul Ramaloko was unable to confirm whether the police were working with home affairs or Interpol on the case. However, Ramaloko confirmed that no arrests had been made by Sunday evening, and said "all possible avenues" were being explored in the investigation.
"We are doing our best to bring the culprit to book," Ramaloko said.
In the Rwandan political-refugee community living in South Africa, there is one clear suspect involved in Karegeya's crime: a man called Apollo Gafaranga.
The Rwandan press called him a "business mogul"; he opened a cinema worth $1-million in 2009. His brother, Amini Gafaranga, appears close to the Kagame regime, speaking at Rwanda Day celebrations in London in May 2013, an event endorsed by Paul Kagame.
Travelling with fake documents
Two close friends of Karegeya, who spoke to the Mail & Guardian, claimed? Gafaranga had spent years earning the former spy chief's trust, travelling to South Africa on at least four occasions, where he would be Kareyega's house guest.
And he always travelled with fake documents, they claim.
But on his final and fatal visit, Gafaranga asked to be put up in a hotel, instead of staying at Kareyega's house. This was because he was increasingly fearful of the Kagame regime, Gafaranga claimed, and he told Kareyega he did not want to jeopardise his friend's security.
Kareyega then booked the hotel room at the Michelangelo Towers in Sandton and went to visit Gafaranga on New Year's Eve. When Kareyega did not respond to text messages or phone calls, his nephew became suspicious and went to the hotel.
Karegeya was found dead. Curtain tie-backs and a pillow case were found in the safe. Garafanga was gone, taking only his cellphone and wallet, and leaving his suitcase behind.
Informal network of informants
Frank Ntwali, Africa regional chairperson of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) – the opposition party that Karegeya helped to form – believes Gafaranga entered South Africa from a different African country on every visit, to avoid detection.
Ntwali last saw Karegeya on December 28, when the two had dinner and discussed their political plans for the new year. Karegeya was upbeat. At this point, the former intelligence chief was well aware that Gafaranga was en route.
Said Ntwali: "About four months ago, he [Gafaranga] made contact with Patrick and claimed Kagame's government was harassing him and had closed his business. He asked Karegeya to help him set up a new life in South Africa, and help him start a business here."
Karegeye had no reason to be suspicious of Gafaranga; the latter had been part of Karegeya's informal network of informants during his tenure as foreign minister of intelligence in Kagame's government.
And now, it's likely Karegeya believed he was helping a fellow-oppositionist escape Kigali.
"It's not unreasonable to help those escaping Rwanda," Ntwali said.
The RNC issued a statement on Friday, also naming Gafaranga as the suspect.
According to another friend of Karegeya and fellow-exile, who asked not to be named for security reasons, Kareyega had protection from the South African government but asked the authorities to back off, about a year ago, because he felt his movements were too restricted.
Ntwali confirmed this. Kareyega, according to sources, had grown complacent. This, despite a keen sense of persecution by Rwandan opposition leaders living in South Africa.
Fellow exiled opposition leader Lieutenant General Faustin Nyamwasa survived a shooting in June 2010.
Ntwali was stabbed nine times in 2012, in what he claims was an attempted hit.
And in October this year, a Burundian man, Emmanuel Habiyambere, was convicted in Sweden of aggravated espionage, for collecting information about Rwandan exiles on behalf of Kagame regime.