CPUT senior staffer's murder shrouded in mystery, six years on

Siyabulela Thwalani’s distraught family during a memorial service honouring his life in November 2017. Thwalani was shot and killed in Khayelitsha. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Siyabulela Thwalani’s distraught family during a memorial service honouring his life in November 2017. Thwalani was shot and killed in Khayelitsha. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Apr 21, 2023


Cape Town - There is still no justice for the family of Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT’s) residences head of department (HOD) Siyabulela Thwalani, killed in what was described as a “a ghastly orchestrated hit” nearly six years ago.

Thwalani’s family believes that a failure of crime intelligence, who allegedly did not follow up on CCTV footage, has led to his death remaining a mystery.

Thwalani, the head of residences at CPUT Cape Town campus, was killed in a hail of bullets a few minutes after dropping off a friend at his house in Mlonji Street, in Khayelitsha’s Litha Park, on November 5, 2017.

It was discovered that nothing was stolen from him or his vehicle.

Thwalani, affectionately known as Siya, worked for CPUT for about 10 years, was politically active in the CPUT branch of the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), and was an ANC activist.

His death sent shock waves through the university and Khayelitsha communities, and his contribution to other people’s lives was evident as more than a hundred people commemorated his life in two memorial services.

He is survived by his three children, the youngest of whom was not yet born when their father was killed.

Thwalani’s nephew Thanduxolo Sithekela said the family was still in anguish and seeking closure.

“At the time of the incident, we were informed someone approached his car, shot him multiple times and ran back to a vehicle which fled the scene. We have been making follow-ups with police in hopes that there are leads that we make us believe an arrest would be made.

“The last time we went to the police was last year in August.

“As the family, we understand investigations take time. However, the street where the incident happened has cameras and even other streets near where he was killed there are cameras.

“I won’t sugar-coat it. The state just failed to act promptly and trace the escape car.”

He said they were informed the same vehicle was spotted about three times on separate days in that street, leading up to the incident. “My uncle visited his friend a lot, so it’s people who knew that. I don’t even remember a police identity kit being issued,” said Sithekela.

He described his uncle as someone who loved education, advocating for learning in the township, and was a candidate for a PhD.

“Uncle Siya always wanted to improve himself.

“He assisted many students ensuring they have accommodation, especially the poor, because he understood that could frustrate them and affect their studies.

“He really was a man of peace.

Siyabulela Thwalani

Hence we are still puzzled where the attack came from. We were very close. That’s why I saw him as a best friend and not my uncle,” said Sithekela.

Lingelethu West police had no record of the incident following engagements with police over the last week and their requests for information about where the case had been opened among others.

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley said the university empathised with Thwalani’s family.

“He is still remembered fondly by his CPUT colleagues and friends.”

His friend, provincial secretary of the SACP, Benson Ngqentsu, said Thwalani lived a life dedicated to the people, and his work was evident.

“His death remains one of the most devastating; a bright future cut short,” he said.

“The SACP in the Western Cape has, since 2021, been campaigning for the resolution of all prolonged cases, including that of Thwalani, but despite commitment from police authorities about their efforts to resolve these cases, we remain concerned and disappointed that till this day, there are no arrests made.

“We call on Minister Bheki Cele and the entire police management to take the people of this province into confidence about the efforts to resolve all prolonged matters and cold cases.”

Cape Times

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