Family of murdered Xolobeni activist appeal to NPA to “unblock” investigation

The Amadiba Crisis Committee has been fighting to prevent a mining project from going ahead in Xolobeni. (Dick Forslund)

The Amadiba Crisis Committee has been fighting to prevent a mining project from going ahead in Xolobeni. (Dick Forslund)

The family of murdered Xolobeni mining activist Sikhosiphi Bazooka Radebe, supported by the Amadiba Crisis Committee (ACC), has asked National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams to intervene in the investigation into his death which they say has been stalled.

Radebe, who was chairman of the ACC, was shot eight times outside his house in Lurholweni in Mbizana, Eastern Cape on 22 March 2016.

The ACC had been fighting to prevent a mining project from going ahead in Xolobeni and several activists had been threatened before his death.

The ACC says two assailants came to Lurholweni presenting themselves as police officers. They were in a vehicle they had hijacked in Port Edward. Radebe was taken out of the house and shot when he refused to get in the car.
The assailants fled north, abandoning the car in KwaZulu-Natal with the two hijack victims still inside, one in the boot and one in the back.

Two years after the murder, no arrests have been made.

In February, Eastern Cape Hawks spokesperson Captain Anelisa Feni told GroundUp that the case was still under investigation and that no further information would be released.

The ACC claims that the police have “refused” to investigate the murder.

In a bid to get answers, Richard Spoor attorneys, on behalf of Radebe’s family and the ACC, have written to the NPA head Shaun Abrahams asking him to “unblock the murder investigation”.

In their letter they request that the NPA take responsibility for the investigation, assign a lead prosecutor to the case, and respond with a plan and timeline for the completion of the investigation by 12 April.

The lawyers quote a report by the Alternative Development Centre (AIDC) released on 20 March on the investigation by the South Africa Police Service and the Hawks.

The report claims that the investigation was “sabotaged from inside the SAPS”. The AIDC, which has appointed its own investigators led by former SAPS general Thulani Ntobela, gives several examples of failures in the official investigation.

It says there were attempts to prevent the family’s forensic specialists from taking part in the autopsy on Radebe’s body. The Hawks failed to investigate the scene of the crime with the family’s ballistic expert. The police failed to consolidate the murder with the hijacking docket. The hijacked car used in the murder was returned to its owner less than 48 hours after the shooting.

The report also said the police attempted to suggest that the murder was the result of a “feud in the Mzamba Taxi Association” and had nothing to do with the mining dispute. Radebe was a taxi owner and founder of the Association.

Police failed to interview the deputy chair of the ACC, Mzamo Dlamini, or to adequately interview ACC spokesperson Nonhle Mbuthuma, both of whom had spoken to Radebe hours before his death when he told them that the mining lobby was “planning to kill us”.

Acting Deputy National Director of the NPA Advocate Sibongile Mzinyathi acknowledged receipt of the lawyers’ letter. He said he had requested progress reports from the relevant Directors of Public Prosecutions.

But Eastern Cape NPA Spokesperson Luxolo Tyali told GroundUp that the NPA did not have a constitutional mandate to investigate cases. “We can only guide the investigation when the SAPS bring the docket to us,” said Tyali. ― GroundUp

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