Johannesburg – As police were piecing together clues that could lead to the arrest of suspects involved in the burglary on the offices of Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, political parties and the public questioned the motive of the crime.
The break-in, which resulted in the theft of computers and the personal information of the country’s 250 judges, came just a day after the Constitutional Court’s damning ruling on the SA Social Security Agency (Sassa).
Among the personal information stolen were ID details, bank accounts, residential addresses and information pertaining to their employment as judges.
Also on Saturday, Gauteng High Court Judge Ramarumo Monama was robbed at gunpoint at his home.
Mogoeng’s spokesperson, Nathi Mncube, said the burglary happened in the early hours of on Saturday at the offices of the Chief Justice in Midrand, where they had moved in a month ago.
The thugs broke the palisade fence of the offices before gaining entrance to the building through the emergency exit door before stealing the computers, according to Gauteng police spokesperson, Captain Mavela Masondo.
Mncube said they could not link the burglary to Friday’s judgments and other rulings, but he did indicate that the Chief Justice was gravely concerned.
“Upon being informed of this crime, (the Chief Justice) remarked that this must be viewed in a very serious light and the police ought to do everything in their power to ensure that the culprits are brought to book,” Mncube said.
Mncube said they were alerted by security guards at the building, and they immediately informed the police, and various units were dispatched and conducted a forensic investigation on the property.
“During the commission of this criminal offence, 15 computers were stolen in the office where the Human Resources and Facilities Units are located. The stolen computers contain important information about judges and officials of the OCJ (Office of the Chief Justice) and constitute a huge setback for the entire administration of the justice.”
Mncube added: “We are hoping that whoever was responsible for the commission of the crime does not use the personal information of the judges for their criminal needs.
“The missing information also contains that of the Chief Justice. We hope that the police will act swiftly to arrest the perpetrators of the crime.”
Mncube said he became aware of the seemingly unrelated armed robbery of Judge Monama while he was busy informing the Judge President of the High Courts in Gauteng, Dustan Mlambo, about the burglary at the Chief Justice’s office.
Describing the crime at Monama’s home, Masondo said: “Judge Monama arrived at his house and found a white Mercedes-Benz in his driveway. He stopped at the gate of his house and was accosted by three armed men, who ordered him out of his car.
“They pointed a gun at him and ordered him to lie on the ground while another robber drove his car away from his gate. The three men then got in their white Mercedes- Benz and sped off.”
He said no shots were fired and the robbers fled with two bottles of perfume which were in the judge’s vehicle.
“Nothing was stolen from the judge’s house. It appears that the judge had disturbed them.
“They were busy diverting the cameras at the house when the judge arrived,” Masondo said.
Political parties reacted with suspicion to the news of the crimes.
“There is something fishy about the burglary…maybe with the view to embarrass the Chief Justice,” said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, adding that it was clear that the burglars were looking for particular information.
He said it was strange that the burglars chose to remove computers which contained sensitive information of judges.
“It was clear that there was something they did not like about the judges, and they chose to remove information containing their personal information,” Holomisa said.
The EFF said the timing of the crimes was suspicious.
“It is, of course, a very worrying factor that after the Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land took some decisions unpopular with the executive, their offices get broken into,” said the EFF’s national spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.
“The people who did that are obviously looking for something specific, perhaps they hope to find information to discredit the office,” he said.
“We have to be concerned as a country.
“We all have to be prepared to come in defence of the Constitutional Court individually and as collectives,” he said.
The ANC condemned the burglary, but urged people to avoid conspiracy theories.
Party spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said: “The ANC has always held the view that one criminal act, regardless of against whom it is perpetrated, is one too many.
“Targeting the Office of the Chief Justice, however, is a direct assault on the sanctity of the institutions that we, as South Africans, hold dear as propping up our constitutional order.”
He called on law enforcement agencies to use all resources at their disposal to ensure that the criminals are dealt with to the full extent of the law.