13 April 2024 | 09:37 PM

Mduli oozes confidence at inquest

Key Takeaways

Suspended crime ­intelligence boss ­Richard Mdluli made a show-stopping arrival at a Boksburg murder inquest on ­Wednesday, wearing a fashionable suit and accompanied by seven ­bodyguards.

All eyes were on him and his entourage, who travelled in two top-of-the-range Mercedes-Benz vehicles, one a shiny four-by-four sports utility vehicle with the registration number 1 GOD and the other a black sedan.

Despite persistent allegations linking him to the murder of Oupa Ramogibe, he seemed at ease on the dock.

He smiled on a number of occasions, even winking at the public gallery while being cross-examined and laughing at lead state prosecutor Kholeka Gcaleka.

He also frequently played to the gallery. During Wednesday’s proceedings, he made a joking reference to “a small, ugly picture” of himself used in the Sowetan newspaper and indicated that he preferred the larger one printed in the Star.

Mdluli was at the Boksburg Magistrate’s Court to testify at the inquest into the murder of Ramogibe in Vosloorus on February 17 1999.

In their testimony, members of Ramogibe’s family indicated that they believed that Mdluli’s jealousy about Ramogibe’s relationship with Mdluli’s former girlfriend, Tshidi Buthelezi, was the motive.

In February, magistrate Jurg Viviers provisionally withdrew criminal charges against Mdluli and his co-accused, Colonel Nkosana Ximba, Warrant Officer Samuel Dlomo and Lieutenant-Colonel Mtunzi-Omhle Mtunzi.

The inquest, now in its third week, is an attempt to determine whether those charges should be reinstated, along with additional charges of assault, kidnapping and intimidation.

With just a week of the inquest remaining, Mdluli’s apparent self-assurance suggests that he believes the inquest is going his way.

His attorneys have argued that there can be no certainty about who killed Ramogibe. The state’s legal representatives have based their case on the assumptions and suspicions of witnesses who no longer clearly recall the events.

Mdluli argued that the resuscitation of the murder case was an attempt by forces unhappy about his appointment as head of crime intelligence to blacken his name.

Describing himself as a “forever smiling and humble” man, he said he realised that he was unpopular with some of his colleagues.

“I was a different person within the [crime intelligence] family. I was objecting to a lot of things and that’s partly why I was targeted,” he said. Asked to elaborate, Mdluli said he often put his foot down over a lack of command within the unit.

But if he had been a criminal, as was implied, he would never have risen through the ranks, he said. Compulsory background checks would have raised a red flag.

Gcaleka often faltered during her cross-examination and an irritated Mdluli objected to her questioning. At one point, he raised his voice, snapping: “What you think and what is fact are two different things!”

Mdluli told Gcaleka that he “felt useless as a man” when he discovered that the mother of his child, Tshidi Buthelezi, was cheating on him with Ramogibe, “a nobody taxi driver … who spun cars for fun”.

But he insisted that he had nothing to do with Ramogibe’s death.

Gcaleka asked Mdluli why Dlomo had driven Ramogibe, “a reluctant witness”, to the scene of an earlier attempt on his life in December 1998.

At the scene, gunmen shot Ramogibe five times. “I’m not an investigating officer; I’m a commander,” Mdluli snapped. “Ask me about commanding.”

On Thursday, Mdluli repeatedly objected that Gcaleka was asking him questions he had already answered.

As he had not been present when Ramogibe was killed, Gcaleka should not expect him to outline what had happened, he said.

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The M&G Centre for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit initiative to develop investigative journalism in the public interest, produced this story. All views are ours. See www.amabhungane.co.za for all our stories, activities and sources of funding.

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Before joining the amaBhungane team in 2017, Micah was the national coordinator for media freedom and diversity at the Right2Know Campaign. He holds a Masters in African Studies from Oxford University and a BA Honours in History from Wits University.

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