Deputy justice minister relives hijack ordeal
For several hours, Deputy Minister of Justice Thabang Makwetla lay face down in the back seat of an unknown car, as four armed men barked orders at him, threatening his life.
After his bank accounts were raided, Makwetla’s hellish kidnapping ordeal ended as he was ordered to run into a stretch of veld in Brits in North West. He was sure that he was going to be murdered.
But now that the men have been arrested - police are investigating their supposed links to a syndicate responsible for a spate of house robberies and hijackings across Gauteng - Makwetla has spoken for the first time about his harrowing experience.
He arrived at the Randburg Magistrate’s Court earlier this week, after having recognised his alleged assailants in an identity parade last month.
Makwetla told the Saturday Star he was relieved that two of the accused, Mojalefa Mathe and Motsepe Gidion, had chosen to abandon their bail proceedings.
On May 21, Makwetla was in the parking lot of the Life Riverfield Lodge in Fourways around 7pm when he saw four armed men storming out of their vehicle, their faces only half concealed.
He had initially thought the men were about to rob the hospital, as they confronted two security guards on the premises.
“I only realised when a gun was pointed at my head that the robbery was directed at me,” he said.
“At the time I was a bit confused, because I didn’t interpret it as a car hijacking ... I just assumed it wouldn’t take four people to hijack a car. I expected the worst.”
They forced him into the back of his Range Rover, where he was told to lie face down on the back seat.
It was only after about an hour that they arrived at their first destination, where they transported him from his own vehicle to another car and demanded his bank cards.
They drove him to what he believed was a shopping complex, where they withdrew money from an ATM.
Then, they drove again for at least another hour, along a highway, eventually taking an off-ramp into the veld.
When they forced him out of the car, the men opened the boot of the vehicle. Makwetla was surprised to see the hospital security guards had also been kidnapped.
The trio were taken out of the car and ordered to walk in the opposite direction. “They said we must run, and at that point I thought, they would now be shooting at us, executing us. Fortunately ... they got into their car and sped off.”
By now, it was 11pm and the disoriented men began their four-hour trek to safety. Even though they found occupied homes as they walked, residents were unwilling to open their doors to help them. It was only upon finding a minibus taxi that had run out of petrol that Makwetla was able to borrow the driver’s phone and call the police.
Despite his traumatic ordeal, Makwetla said he and his family were recovering. “It was a harrowing experience, but it’s a matter of time.
“You mentally regain your sanity with time.”
On Tuesday, Mathe, Gidion, Brandon Katlego Mashego and Ben Kutumela appeared briefly for their proceedings, and the case was postponed for the State to complete its investigation.
It has been reported that Gidion is also on trial for the robbery of social activist Yusuf Abramjee’s home in 2013, and was out on bail when he allegedly hijacked the deputy minister.
However, the Saturday Star understands that this week, the police’s organised crime unit in Pretoria has been trying to link the four men to a large number of other hijackings and house robbery dockets, including the hijacking of an advocate and acting magistrate in March.
Advocate Ben Shai had been speaking with a friend outside a Centurion home on March 30 when a group of armed men approached them.
The pair were forced to lie down on the ground as they stole Shai’s wallet, watch, bank cards and his Black Range Rover.
It’s understood that Shai was asked to attend an identity parade this week to see if he recognised any of the accused.