The police investigation into the assassination of North West whistleblower and councillor Moss Phakoe has taken a dramatic turn following a series of interrogations with influential local ANC members and the arrest of Umkhonto weSizwe veteran Enock Matshaba.
Matshaba was arrested on Thursday last week. He appeared before the Rustenburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, and the case was postponed to August 16 for a bail application.
The 45-year-old long-time member of the Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) received his training in Uganda in 1989 and was deployed to Tanzania as the association’s chief of logistics in 1991. He joined the Rustenburg municipality in 2005 as a bodyguard for the mayor, Mathews Wolmarans.
He was arrested two months after police raided the house of businessman Oupa Mphomane and questioned both Mphomane and Wolmarans about Phakoe’s murder.
Both men were implicated in a document Phakoe handed over to Co-operative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka containing corruption allegations related to the outsourcing of the operation of the Rustenburg Kloof Holiday Resort, owned by the municipality. The contract was awarded to Omaramba, a company co-owned by Mphomane.
Mphomane and Wolmarans denied any wrongdoing in the tender or involvement in the murder, though Mphomane confirmed in an interview with the Mail & Guardian that detectives had previously questioned him about a meeting he had with Wolmarans a week before Phakoe’s assassination.
Matshaba’s MK weapons instructor and national spokesperson for the MKMVA, Kebby Maphatsoe, said he was shocked to learn about the arrest and described Matshaba as a disciplined and honest cadre who was in his best company of “young lions” during exile.
“If found guilty, I would be very disappointed, because MKMVA veterans cannot be used as assassins. We have long passed the stage of army struggle,” he said.
Matshaba had approached him about rumours that he was involved in the murder shortly after Phakoe was killed in 2009, but Matshaba had denied being involved.
“I hope police have investigated correctly and he was not arrested because of pressure from forces that wanted closure on the case,” he said, pointing out that the arrest might have been a result of factionalism in the ANC.
The police investigation team also grilled a member of the mayoral committee, Amos Mataboge, a few weeks after questioning Mphomane and Wolmarans. According to Mataboge, police wanted information about a meeting that took place at his house about a week before Phakoe was killed. ANC members, including Wolmarans and Mphomane, attended the meeting.
“That was a lobby group meeting to discuss the local government elections. But police wanted to know if we were plotting Phakoe’s murder,” he said.
“The two men arrived at my house later after the meeting had begun and they said they were coming from a garage. They were both armed because I saw the rifle myself and Mphomane told me it was licensed.”
“Matshaba was not part of the meeting. Wolmarans normally drove himself. They [the police] thought they had the big fish. It hurts me that my wife and I were questioned about the murder. I was at Maile extension on the day Phakoe was killed,” he said.
Sources close to the investigation told the M&G the police were reaching closure in the case and were planning to make more arrests soon. “Progress has been made and more revelations are coming out on who was behind the killing,” said a source.
Trade union federation Cosatu provincial secretary Solly Phetoe congratulated the investigating team for the arrest.
“At the time of his arrest, the same person was the driver of the current mayor. What does this mean to the workers and the poor family of Moss? It can’t be correct that the man who is close to the killers is a driver of our political leaders.We call on the police to speedily arrest all others who are implicated in this matter.”
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