Johannesburg - It all started with a knock at door of Ali Haji’s posh Bedfordview home on Sunday at about 7.30pm.
Haji – a Tanzanian businessman, his wife, and a friend were having dinner – their one-year-old baby was with them – when cops (or so it seemed at the time) arrived claiming to be investigating a crime.
They tied him up, pepper-sprayed him and put a plastic bag over his head. After helping themselves to his watches, cellphones and R10 000 in cash Haji was shoved into the boot of his own car.
View A kidnapping and Khuli Chana being shot in a full screen map
Two of the so-called cops drove away in a grey BMW. The other drove off with Haji in the boot. His anxious wife called the Bedfordview police.
The police from this station see quite a lot of action, some of it pretty high profile – for example a recent hit on Lebanese national Sam Issa and an earlier attempted shooting, 007-style, of Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir – and quickly contacted the Hawks to start the search for the kidnapped businessman.
All the while, according to Haji’s lawyer, Eric Bryer, who was speaking on behalf of Haji’s friends, the greedy kidnappers called and called – at least 10 times. With each call the ransom increased.
“They first asked for R100 000. Then there must’ve been 10 phone calls and they increased it to R500 000 and a kilo of cocaine or heroin,” Bryer said.
While Haji lay bound and gasping for air in the boot of his car, the ransom negotiations reached a conclusion.
His friends told the kidnappers they had managed to find R200 000.
They got their orders: the money was to be placed inside a box and dropped at the men’s toilets at the Caltex petrol station at New Road in Midrand – it’s the landmark station that goes over the highway.
Police officers and the businessman’s friends devised a plan.
Casually dressed officers in unmarked vehicles made their way to the station and strategically placed themselves around the building.
As far as hi-tech goes, the sting operation was far from it.
They used the old “officer-in-toilet-with-bread” sting – nothing CSI about it. In other words they put a loaf of bread in a shoebox and hid an officer in a toilet.
But it didn’t matter – it worked. A man came into the toilet and picked up the package. His effort was rewarded with immediate arrest.
The whole episode unfolded without anybody really noticing.
A Caltex garage employee, Junior, 28, said that at around midnight he noticed two white people walking with a black man from the toilets.
“I thought they were friends when they put him in a car.”
Junior didn’t bother to investigate because “there were no police or police cars at the petrol station” that he noticed.
He was “sleepy anyway, and playing the radio in the booth”.
Junior didn’t even see the award-winning hip-hop artist Khuli Chana – real name Khulane Morule – drive into the petrol station in a blue BMW and buy a cup of coffee before proceeding on his way to a gig in Pretoria.
If Chana’s lyrics are anything to go by, it makes sense he was going to a gig at midnight on a Sunday.
In his song, Mnatebawena, from his latest album Lost in Time he says: “I’m grinding bosigo, get paid in the morning,” meaning he works at night and gets paid during the day.
As Chana left the petrol station, he was shot at.
Why and how is the subject of a big dispute.
Police say he didn’t stop after being flagged down by police conducting a blockade on the N1 off-ramp.
But his BMW was a different colour from the kidnappers’ grey one.
Six shots were fired. Police say they were warning shots, but one of the bullets lodged in Chana’s index finger and shrapnel hit his back, according to Chana’s manager, Refiloe Ramogase.
Chana went to hospital and then went home at about 5am on Monday, His manager took to the airwaves vowing to take legal action against the police.
In another version, Haji’s friends, according to Bryer, witnessed the incident. They said Chana was an “an idiot and a diabolical liar” for saying officers opened fire unexpectedly and without warning.
He had tried to run over police officers who had flagged him down at the roadblock, they claim.
Gauteng police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the matter would be probed by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
The police were still searching for five more bogus cops involved in the kidnapping, he said.
All the while Haji was tied up in the boot of his car, abandoned by the kidnappers in Pretoria.
Somehow he managed to wriggle free, climb from his boot and run to the nearest police station for help.
The man who was arrested when he picked up the package, Enoch Motsepe, 32, a police constable, has appeared in court.
Chana’s phone now goes unanswered, as does his manager’s. And Bryer has decided not to comment. Nobody is talking any more… so the mystery of yet another crime that started in Bedfordview remains. – Sources: The Star, EWN