|Dispatch Live1 April 2016
A new twist has emerged in the murder of Sikhosiphi “Bazooka” Rhadebe, a fierce opponent of open-cast titanium mining in Xolobeni who was gunned down outside his home.
Hours before two gunmen killed Rhadebe in Mdatya, Xolobeni, last Tuesday, they had hijacked two brothers in Port Edward. The vehicle, a white VW Polo, matched the description of the car that had been used in the hit on Rhadebe.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Nqobile Gwala said the brothers were hijacked in Ellis Drive last Tuesday morning. However, Gwala said they were only investigating a case of car-jacking and kidnapping.
“The victims were stopped by two gunmen who pointed firearms at them. They put the driver in the boot of his car. We cannot divulge the merits of the case as the investigation is at a sensitive stage.”
Members of the Amadiba Crisis Committee, which Rhadebe chaired, said new information was coming in “bits and pieces”.
Committee members Mzamo Dlamini and Nonhle Mbuthuma said they were told Rhadebe had been shot in the presence of the men whose car was hijacked.
“Comrade Bazooka refused to be pushed into the car and was shot outside his house. The hitmen then went to Port Shepstone [KwaZulu-Natal] and were picked up by another car. The hijack victims were then freed and called for help,” Dlamini said.
Hawks spokesman Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the kidnap victims were unharmed.
He confirmed the vehicle had been used to commit murder. Rhadebe’s murder docket has now been classified “national priority”.
The murder of 53-year-old Rhadebe, who spent 10 years leading the resistance to mining in Xolobeni by the Australian mining company Mineral Commodity Limited (CMR), has shocked the nation and caught the attention of pressure groups around the globe.
The Legal Resource Centre (LRC) – South Africa’s largest public interest human rights law clinic – said the hijacked vehicle was released to its owner before the Hawks could inspect it, much to the shock of both entities.
The centre said it has arranged for an independent forensic pathologist and an independent ballistic expert to form part of the postmortem procedure with the state doctor at the St Patrick’s Hospital in Bizana, where the body lay.
“The centre would like to stress that a comprehensive, independent investigation that ensures justice for Rhadebe’s death is required,” read a statement from the LRC.
Police have been encouraged to draft an operational plan to cope with the masses expected at the funeral.