Durban - A criminal who duped KwaZulu-Natal police into believing he was a Hawks brigadier, and who won accolades for his “crime fighting successes”, has been found hanged in a police cell just six hours after he was arrested.
Musa “Muzi” Khumalo was found hanged by a blanket in a Pretora police cell on Saturday.
He had fled South Africa after his cover was blown in July when KZN police spokesman, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, saw a picture of him that was being circulated as a wanted person.
Mdunge recognised him as the “brigadier” who had berated him for a comment he made to a newspaper.
His death after being on the run for the past two years, has raised suspicions that he may have been murdered because of information he had allegedly had that could have incriminated top police officers.
“He did not end his own life, he was killed … it was to silence him,” a police source told the Daily News yesterday.
“He had ‘dope’ on a lot of high ranking police officers. He had threatened to spill the beans on them.”
The source said Khumalo had close ties with national ministers, politicians and senior government officials.
After hoodwinking the police, he gained acceptance within their ranks and went on to impress them with his detective work.
In the past year, Khumalo had helped police smash local and international car theft and hijacking syndicates, leading to recovery of more than 40 stolen and hijacked cars in northern KZN.
Police later realised, however, that this had been a brilliant strategy by Khumalo to eliminate his rival criminals and use his “position” in the Hawks to sustain his alleged car theft and hijacking operation.
In July this year, police said three warrants of arrest had been issued for Khumalo in KZN - for murder, escaping from police custody and impersonating a police officer. Johannesburg police were also looking for him for impersonating a Hawks investigator.
Khumalo was facing more than seven criminal charges, including a Chatsworth murder. He was arrested and escaped while awaiting trial.
He was arrested again on Saturday at a holiday lodge in Bezuidenhout Valley, Johannesburg, after being lured back into the country by a policewoman with whom he had maintained regular contact.
After being on the run for five months, he arrived in South Africa from Zimbabwe on November 26, using a fake passport that had been stamped at the Beitbridge border crossing.
Members of the national detective services and crime intelligence swooped on the lodge about 1am on Saturday.
A membe r of the SAPS national tracking team, Colonel Fanie van Deventer, said they kept him under surveillance once they received information on his whereabouts.
Van Deventer said Khumalo was processed and put into the cells at a Pretoria police station at 4am.
“There were regular cell visits by members on duty. But, around the change of shift at 6am, Khumalo was found hanged in his cell. He had used a blanket to end his life.”
The national divisional commissioner for detectives, Lieutenant-General Vineshkumar Moonoo, said that at this stage there appeared to be nothing sinister about Khumalo’s death.
“He was alone in his cell all the time. I had given strict instructions for no one to visit him without getting permission from me first,” he said.
“I have checked with the station and they have confirmed - he had no [outside] visitors.”
According to a police source, Khumalo had more than R8 million in his account, and had owned several businesses, including hairdressing salons.
The source claimed rumours were also rife that Khumalo was a secret service agent, either hired by crime intelligence or the NIA.
Khumalo had allegedly bragged to policemen, claiming he was close to KZN police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, former acting police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, and General Riah Phiyega, the current police commissioner.
Moonoo said his office had taken over the investigation in July.
“This case was given top priority. It was imperative to arrest Khumalo,” he said.
“It seems like he was working within police structures for many years. It is also suspected that he was working hand in hand with people from the organisation.”
Khumalo’s arrest came two days after a Johannesburg policewoman was taken in for questioning by police.
Moonoo said the policewoman, who admitted she knew Khumalo, was quizzed by detectives for 48 hours. She told police Khumalo was in contact with her. She said admitted she had stayed with him on several occasions in Durban and Johannesburg.
She was used to lure him into the police trap, Moonoo said.
He said Khumalo’s real identity was still unclear.
“He had several fake passports in his possession. His fingerprints have been taken and we hope to get clarity on his true identity in the coming days.”
Police investigations showed that Khumalo had allegedly faked his death in 2008. Police said he had killed his identity as a Zimbabwean national and was resurrected as Musa Khumalo.
“He managed to obtain a false South African passport and identity document with this alias.”
Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman, Moses Dlamini, said that while an investigation was under way, no foul play was suspected.
“A post-mortem will be conducted [today] to determine the exact cause of death.”