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Johannesburg - A woman who is a key witness in a multi-million-rand fraud case against the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) was allegedly abducted by a group of men at her home in Snake Park, Soweto on Thursday night.
She was later dropped off at a police station.
Rebecca Lebogang Bapela was allegedly kidnapped when a group of 20 men wearing balaclavas and armed with R4 rifles broke down the door of her home with crowbars just after midnight.
Speaking to The Star this morning, her terrified husband William Bapela said the men introduced themselves as police officers when they arrived at his home.
“When I asked them which police station, they said Pretoria central. They did not want to tell me where exactly in Pretoria they were coming from. They told me to shut up and stop asking questions if I don’t want to die,” he said.
The couple’s three children - Koketso, 17, Kamogelo, 13, and Kutluano, 10 - were slapped by the attackers, who ordered them to cover themselves with blankets.
Kamogelo said the men “pointed guns at us and told us to stop looking at them because they will kill us. It was so frightening”.
William said the men took all their cellphones, then bundled Rebecca, who was screaming, into the car and drove away.
William rushed to Snake Park and Dobsonville police stations to report the incident.
“When I asked them if they knew anything about police officers who came to arrest my wife, they said they knew nothing,” he said.
It then dawned on William that his wife had been abducted and he immediately opened a case of kidnapping.
Rebecca is a key witness in the Satawu fraud case which has seen several former union leaders arrested in connection with the disappearance of millions from the union’s trust fund.
Last year Rebecca and former Satawu president Ephraim Mphahlele joined the splinter union the National Transport Movement (NTM).
Mphahlele resigned in August, claiming that Satawu’s leaders were plotting to assassinate him. He said there were three attempts on his life after he called for the union to commission a forensic probe into the missing millions. This was after it emerged that there were financial irregularities in the union.
Zenzo Mahlangu, past Satawu president Ezrom Mabyana and former union deputy president Robert Mashego, now Ekurhuleni council chief whip, were taken into custody over the alleged theft of R8.2m from the union.
Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko said at the time that the arrests were in connection with fraud and theft related to the SA Railways and Harbour Workers Union (Sarhwu) Enablement Trust. He said the accused were alleged to have stolen R8.2m from this fund and bought luxury cars and houses.
William said he believed Rebecca had been targeted because she was a witness in the case.
While speaking to The Star, William received a call from the Dobsonville police saying his wife had
just been dropped of by a group of men who accused her of torching a train.
William said reports were that she was badly beaten up, but that he hadn’t been able to speak to her.
Dobsonville police spokesman Captain Mpande Khoza confirmed that a case of kidnapping had been opened by William early on Friday.
But he said a police investigation revealed that the woman had not been kidnapped, but was arrested by Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) security personnel in connection with a case of malicious damage to property that was opened in Kagiso.
Prasa spokesman Moffet Mofokeng had not responded to calls for comment by the time of going to print.
“My wife was one of the shop stewards at Prasa - she knows about a lot of things, including corruption. They are just trying to shut her up,” he said.
Rebecca was recently dismissed by Prasa after she was accused of assaulting non-striking employees last year. She is challenging her dismissal and the case is currently before the Labour Court.
NTM deputy general secretary Liver Mngomezulu said this was not the first time a whistle-blower had been targeted.