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2005: A year of tragedy, scandal and heroes

Published Dec 19, 2005


By Alex Eliseev


- The year began tragically for Nelson Mandela when his only surviving son, 54-year-old Makgatho, died. Mandela bravely told the country his son had died of Aids-related complications.

- Dave Shaw became an instant hero in the depths of Boesmansgat cave in the Northern Cape. The Australian died trying to retrieve the body of Deon Dreyer, who had died in the same cave a decade earlier.

Shaw's body floated to the surface a few days later, attached to Dreyer's remains.

- Mark Scott-Crossley and Simon Mathebula grabbed the limelight after the murder of farmworker Nelson Chisale.

They were accused of throwing Chisale's body into a lions' den. Scott-Crossley was sentenced to life and Mathebula to 15 years.


- A mentally unstable 35-year-old Kanellie Hazikonstandinou - dubbed the Cresta slasher - who slit the throat of Maureen Naughtin in the shopping centre the year before, slashed an inmate at Sterkfontein mental hospital, to where she was admitted after the Cresta incident.

- Convicted fraudster and former African National Congress chief whip Tony Yengeni claimed former justice minister Penuell Maduna and the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Bulelani Ngcuka, had reneged on a private plea bargain.

Yengeni said they convinced him to plead guilty in return for a lenient sentence. Ngcuka and Maduna denied this.

Yengeni has appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal against his four-year jail term.

- Orlando Pirates soccer star Benedict Vilakazi appeared in the Johannesburg magistrate's court for allegedly raping a 15-year-old girl.

His trial - held in the same courtroom where the embattled Jacob Zuma later appeared on rape charges - will continue next year.

- Finance Minister Trevor Manuel announced R6,8-billion in tax cuts and a major increase in the government's social spending.


- The long-running Travelgate saga saw five ANC Members of Parliament found guilty and fined for abusing travel vouchers. Other implicated MPs will face trial next year.


- Mandela became involved in a bitter legal dispute with former lawyer and friend Ismail Ayob and Touch Of Mandela's Ross Calder.

Mandela claimed in papers filed at the Johannesburg High Court that Ayob and Calder had sold artwork bearing his name without his approval.

He wanted Ayob to resign from all his trusts. Ayob and Calder denied the allegations, and the dispute has not been solved.

- Another unfinished trial is that of "Advocate Barbie". Blond bombshell Cézanne Visser and former lover and fellow advocate Dirk Prinsloo are charged with sexually exploiting children.

The pair failed to have their trials separated but Prinsloo succeeded in changing his bail conditions to allow him to cool off in Russia for the December holidays.

- The "battle of the saints" erupted at a party in Houghton, Johannesburg. Former St Stithians pupil Wade Baker was severely beaten when he arrived at the party patronised by many St Johns pupils.

Baker was admitted to hospital. One youngster "brave enough to admit to taking part in the beating" has been convicted and fined.


- Sixty-one haggard but happy South African mercenaries were freed after a year in jail in Zimbabwe. They were arrested in March, apparently on their way to topple the government of Equatorial Guinea.

- The last surviving member of the Stander Gang, Allan Heyl, was released from jail after 21 years. The gang, led by ex-cop André Stander, terrorised the country's banks in the early 80s.


- Durban businessman Schabir Shaik was sentenced to an effective 15 years in jail after being found guilty of two charges of corruption and one of fraud.

Judge Hilary Squires famously ruled that Shaik and then-deputy president Jacob Zuma had a "generally corrupt relationship".

- On June 13 Zuma was axed as the country's deputy president. A week later, the National Prosecuting Authority announced it would charge him with corruption.

- On June 23, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka was appointed deputy president. This was generally welcomed, but Zuma's political allies cried foul.

- The Mbhele sisters, Nelisiwe and Lindiwe, were raped and then strangled with their church robes in Soweto. The community were furious and protested because of the police's failure to make arrests.

- Cosatu members embarked on a nationwide strike in protest at unemployment.


- The solidarity union led a major pay strike, which paralysed South African Airways. Within days the airline caved in to the demands of the strikers.

- On July 18 Mandela turned 87, and continued to defy retirement.

- On July 25 the much-publicised Donovan Moodley trial for the murder of 21-year-old Leigh Matthews began in Johannesburg. After a week Moodley pleaded guilty and revealed how he killed the Bond University student.

The pastor's son was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, the judge ruled that Moodley had not told the whole truth. Police vowed to continue to investigate the case.


- Thousands of municipal workers went on strike in support of wage-increase demands, trashing Johannesburg streets.

- Zuma resurfaced on the front page of newspapers when it was revealed he was living in Idle Winds, a cosy R3,6-million home in Forest Town, Johannesburg. The residence was in the news again when the Scorpions raided it on August 18.

Law enforcement agents were looking for documents relating to Zuma's corruption trial. A tense standoff between the Scorpions and Zuma's bodyguards took place.

- The Star broke the story about a mysterious break-in at the home of Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka in Sandton.

The police tried to hide the break-in, which took place while Mlambo-Ngcuka was sleeping and her VIP guards were on duty. The burglars escaped with Mlambo-Ngcuka's laptop, cellphones and handbag.

- On August 24 Shaik's Durban flat was burnt down and its contents gutted.


- Several Booysens cops were filmed while allegedly taking bribes from illegal immigrants. The trial of the police officers will start next year.

- A typhoid outbreak in Delmas was officially said to have claimed the lives of four people. But residents said the figure was much higher.

- On September 19 Marissa Naidoo, a 10-year-old schoolgirl, was found dead and her body stuffed in a suitcase. Her alleged killer leapt off of the balcony of his Benoni flat and died.

The girl was snatched from her school and her kidnapper demanded a R500 000 ransom. Police are still investigating.

- On September 28, controversial mining tycoon Brett Kebble died in a hail of bullets in Johannesburg. Police said Kebble, in a desperate attempt to escape, managed to drive 400m before he bled to death.

Sources claimed police botched the investigation but the authorities denied this. It is still not clear whether Kebble's murder was a failed hijacking or an assassination.


- Ghairoenisha Ganchi, a six-year-old from Eldorado Park near Johannesburg, went missing. Her body was discovered in a field; she had been raped, murdered and left lying naked.

Police were criticised for telling her parents that 24 hours had to pass before a missing-person complaint could be made. Police later arrested a man, who lived less than 100m from the Ganchis. He will be tried next year.

- Mere days later, a gang of gunmen snatched 10-year-old Liam Aspeling from his home. The Ennerdale boy was reunited with his mother after 29 hours.

It emerged that Liam's father had turned state witness and was due to give evidence in a Cape Town court against a hijacking gang. It was believed the kidnapping was an attempt to force him not to testify.

- The violent double murder of plastic surgeon Anwar Kadwa and his wife Muneira rocked Johannesburg. The pair were shot in their bedroom. No one has been arrested.

- On October 11 Zuma made his first court appearance in Durban. His supporters held an overnight vigil outside the court and burnt T-shirts bearing President Thabo Mbeki's face. The trial is set down for the middle of next year.

- Cape High Court Judge President John Hlophe was in the headlines because of a racism row. It was alleged he had called a local lawyer a "piece of white s**t". A commission investigated but found no substance to the allegations.

- At the end of October, William Nkuna was found guilty of murdering his ex-girlfriend, Constable Frances Rasuge. He was sentenced to life behind bars. Rasuge had disappeared and was presumed dead. Her body has not been found.

The court found that Nkuna drew money from Rasuge's account and made several calls on the missing woman's cellphone. It also established through DNA evidence that Rasuge had been in Nkuna's car.

- Intelligence Minister Ronnie Kasrils suspended three top National Intelligence Agency spies suspected of illegally spying on politician-turned-businessman Saki Macozoma.

Kasrils's ministry was also embroiled in a row about emails, allegedly exchanged between top ANC officials plotting Zuma's downfall. Kasrils warned that the emails were bogus, and investigations continue.


- Donovan Moodley returned to court for an application for leave to appeal against his sentence. He took this opportunity to demand a retrial, claiming he did not murder Leigh Matthews.

He also promised to reveal the identities of the "real" killers. Moodley is expected to file a comprehensive application early next year.

- November saw Johannesburg under siege from armed gangs pulling off cash-in-transit and shopping centre heists. In four weeks, 69 heists were carried out and several people were killed.

- Zuma's political fortunes continued to wane. A second blow came when a 31-year-old woman claimed he had raped her at his Forest Town mansion.

Police speedily investigated the matter and within weeks the National Prosecuting Authority confirmed that a "docket existed".

- Graham Masondo, an alleged bogus lawyer who posed as the son of Johannesburg's mayor, was arrested in connection with the conning of dozens of people, including his own mother. One of his alleged victims was conned out of R80 000.

- Kabelo Thibedi, a 21-year-old unemployed man, made headlines in the last two days of the month when he took a home affairs employee hostage in Johannesburg. Thibedi was frustrated by having to wait for two years for his identity document.

Members of the Special Task Force arrested him after a five-hour hostage drama. It later turned out that he had used a toy gun. His trial is expected to take place next year.


- December 6 was a crucial day for South African politics. It was the day Zuma made a secret court appearance at the Johannesburg regional court to be formally charged with rape.

He was released on R20 000 bail and is to appear on February 13 in the Johannesburg High Court. Uniformed police officers and Zuma's bodyguards denied the media access to the court.

Two days later the ANC silenced Zuma, saying he could not carry out his duties as party deputy president without consulting the party.

- It was back to the turbulent 1980s for the Gauteng town of Khutsong. Irate residents from the area, complaining about the town's incorporation into North West, staged violent protests.

The protesters torched several councillors' houses, and destroyed cars and government buildings. Police battled to maintain order and arrested several residents, who are to appear in court next year.

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