Peers fear upright water affairs official was assassinated

The strange circumstances surrounding the brutal murder of a senior water affairs official in Pretoria late last year have heightened suspicions among his family and colleagues that the crime was a hit.

Mark-Anthony Williams (47), chief director of infrastructure in the North West region, was shot five times at his home in Pretoria West on December 23.

In a tribute to him at his funeral in East London, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa reportedly claimed that the killing was an assassination. Approached for comment last week, Molewa said it was a police matter and she would not speculate on the motive.

Electronic goods, including Williams’s laptop, were stolen, and it is understood that local police investigators initially treated the murder as a housebreaking that went wrong.

But amaBhungane has learned from two well-placed sources that the Hawks have taken over the case.

National police spokesperson Solomon Makgale would only say that the investigation is continuing.

Fear has gripped the department since Williams’s murder, said a colleague who asked not to be named.

Straight arrow
He was a “no-nonsense” person who often raised questions about suspected corruption in the department, the source said. “He questioned the appointment of certain companies that he thought were not qualified and that often made him unpopular.”

Although he did not have significant sway over the allocation of tenders, he “certainly had the ability to embarrass certain senior officials during meetings”.

Another colleague described Williams as a humble person who lived a simple life.

“He complained about expensive school fees, so he didn’t strike me as someone who lived the high life.”

Williams, described as a workaholic who needed little sleep, was shot while working in his study at about 2am.

A close personal friend said his initial thought was that this was a robbery that had taken a tragic turn. But after arriving at the scene he felt that “something didn’t make sense”.

“The rest of the house was not disturbed at all; the only blood was in the study. And there was no sign of a struggle,” the friend said.

“He had five bullet wounds but 10 cartridge cases were found in the study. Why so many shots if it was just a robbery?”

The intruders took Williams’s laptop, cellphone and a plasma TV.

Williams’s wife, Emelia, said the family was still too traumatised to talk about the killing. Yet a close relative said the robbers had used a crowbar to open a sliding door and gain entry to the house.

“They went straight to the study where they found Mark working. When the family heard gunshots they hid in the bathroom.”

The family member was struck by the fact that the intruders had not searched the rest of the house for other valuable items. “It was as if their mission was to shoot Mark and take the laptop. They seem to have taken the TV to make it look like a robbery.”

Deepening suspicions of an ulterior motive was the fact that Williams’s computer bag was found on the kitchen counter with documents it had contained strewn across the floor.

“These people are looking for something and we don’t know what it is. As a result the family had to go into hiding,” said the source.

Emelia and Williams’s two adult children, who were in the house at the time of the murder, have moved to an undisclosed address in Pretoria.

Since the house was vacated, there had been two further break-ins, the source said.

“I am no crime expert, but it was very bold for the robbers to come back and steal all the laptops. The next time they took all Mark’s suits and shoes and jewellery.”

The water affairs department source said the apparent lack of progress in solving the case had fuelled the fears of Williams’s colleagues.

“The investigating officers were changed four times before the case was taken over by the Hawks,” claimed the source.

There was particular nervousness among those who had been close to the slain chief director.

Sources independently recalled incidents where Williams had spoken out on allegedly questionable dealings in the department.

“You don’t know who to talk to; even if you see something is wrong you keep your mouth shut … We honestly believe that Mark’s boldness got him into trouble.”

Unlike other senior officials, Williams could afford to speak up because “he was good at his job. Getting rid of him would have been hard.”

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) produced this story. All views are ours. See for our stories, activities and funding sources.

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