Cape Town - University of Fort Hare (UFH) vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu has described the arrest of their former staff in connection with crimes, including murders that rocked the institution, as shameful.
A national police multi-disciplinary team deployed in the Eastern Cape to crack a spate of attacks which claimed the lives of Buhlungu’s executive protector, Mboneli Vesele, and fleet manager Petrus Roets made a breakthrough, arresting five men in connection with the crimes.
Vesele was killed in a hail of bullets on January 6 outside Buhlungu’s Alice residence, the attack taking place after the bodyguard had dropped off the vice-chancellor Roets was shot and killed in broad daylight last year, and the houses of executive staff members, including Buhlungu, were shot at.
There was a heavy police presence at the Alice Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday as Buhlungu, Police Minister Bheki Cele, National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola and provincial officials were in attendance when the accused made their first appearance.
Suspended UFH fleet officer Bongani Peter faces six charges including the murders of Roets and Vesele.
“He also faces additional charges of the attempted murders of Professor Buhlungu, Professor Renuka Vithal and Nozuko Mabombo and an additional charge of fraud and corruption,” said Masemola.
Three suspects, former Student Representative Council (SRC) member Sicelo Mbulawa, a former university employee who retired four years ago, Wanini Khuza, and Mthobisi Khanyile face charges of murder, corruption and fraud.
A fifth accused, Mthobisi Dlamini Zondo, faces murder, attempted murder, possession of firearms and ammunition charges.
Masemola said more arrests were expected in the case.
“It’s not the end. There are still those who we are going to arrest in addition to those who appeared here today,” he said.
Eastern Cape National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regional spokesperson Luxolo Tyali said the matter was postponed to May 4 for a formal bail application in Dimbaza.
Buhlungu confirmed that some of the accused were former employees.
“Mr Peter is currently on suspension for corruption.
“For us, it’s a shame that one of our own, who received a salary from the university, had not only been stealing and siphoning money from the fleet department, but he also has (allegedly) been planning the murders of some of us,” he said.
According to Buhlungu, the executive and staff were relieved by the arrests, saying they were long coming, “The lessons learned from this included that patience is needed during an investigation and we have been doing just that.
“When both Mr Roets and Vesele were murdered, as said I shall not allow this to happen again. I was pleased by the positive response from President Cyril Ramaphosa, who sent the top brass.
“We are very appreciative of the efforts and professionalism of the task team which led to these results, and we are certain now that more arrests will be made,” he said.
Police Minister Bheki Cele met with Buhlungu in January and staff concerns were raised. In an effort to respond to them, the task team was established to investigate the matter.
“These are the outcomes of the team. The arrests are people from different parts of the country. Once again one of the suspects is a person from KwaZulu-Natal. It seems like the province never misses out when such incidents happen. We are very happy with the team's work,” said Cele.