Johannesburg - A crack cash-in-transit heist-busting unit proved to be the downfall of the ANC Luthuli House staffer who is allegedly embroiled in several “heinous crimes”.
Brigadier Vishnu Naidu said on Wednesday that Errol Velile Present, who worked at the governing party’s Joburg headquarters, was nabbed by a multidisciplinary team for allegedly being involved in a mall robbery in Dobsonville, Soweto on July 4.
This comes as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the Hawks have said more charges could be added to the one that Present is facing in a case which has drawn sharp attacks aimed at the ANC by its political foes.
John Botha, a labour attorney, has also said that Present’s dismissal could have violated labour laws if he was fired without the ANC following extensive disciplinary proceedings, where his side of the story was also heard.
Naidu, spokesperson for National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole, said the “high-density stabilisation team” operated under the mantra of the “72-hour action plan”, which alleged robber Present fell prey to.
The team, Naidu added, included crime intelligence, the Hawks, SAPS detectives and special tactical teams such as the police’s task force, among others.
“So, when a crime is committed, we mobilise the multidisciplinary team and try to identify, trace and arrest the suspects within 72 hours.
“It (the strategy) has proved to be very successful,” he said.
“The action plan was also employed in Dobsonville. We might not necessarily arrest the people within 72 hours.
“But, more often than not, (72-hour arrests) are happening. For the Dobsonville robbery, it (the heist) happened on a Wednesday - by Saturday, the suspects were arrested, which was within the 72 hours,” Naidu emphasised.
Four vehicles - a Ford Ranger, Volvo, Peugeot and Kia Picanto - believed to have been hijacked were retrieved during the arrests.
Present, who appeared in court with three other suspects on Tuesday, gained notoriety yesterday following a statement by Joburg mayor Herman Mashaba, in which he chastised the ANC for employing someone who “brazenly (undermines) public safety and the rule of law”
ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe said the governing party had dismissed Present from Luthuli House and instituted internal disciplinary action, which could see him suspended for his “arrest and appearance in court on allegations of a number of heinous crimes”.
However, attorney Botha said consistency was one of the key fairness factors before dismissing an employee, adding that other ANC leaders had invoked the “innocent until proved guilty defence”, which had seemingly not applied to Present.
Phindi Mjonondwane, spokesperson for the Gauteng NPA, confirmed Present’s appearance in court - along with his co-accused - on charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances.
Mjonondwane, however, pointed out that more charges, including the possession of stolen property, could be added to the charges Present faced once investigators had concluded their investigation.
Hawks national spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that investigations were continuing, but he pointed out that Present’s arrest was an indication that law enforcers had enough evidence to nab him and his co- accused.
“We investigate to arrest; we don’t arrest to investigate,” Mulaudzi asserted.
He added that the unit, along with prosecutors, would oppose bail for the four suspects because of the seriousness of the crimes which they were arrested for.
“We make sure that we give compelling evidence as to why we want the person to be incarcerated, why we want a person not to get bail,” Mulaudzi emphasised.
The suspects would remain in custody until their bail hearing, which was expected on July 31.
According to his social media profile, Present was an avowed ANC member who openly supported President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Jacob Zuma as the party’s president in the lead-up to its national conference in December.
Present even considered running for high office within the ANC as its Joburg regional treasurer, announcing his candidature online and garnering some support.
The DA has used this incident to attack the ANC, with John Moodey, the party’s Gauteng leader, charging that the ANC had failed to bring criminals and corrupt people, even within its own ranks, to justice.
However, Mabe was quick to point out the governing party had supported efforts to investigate, arrest and charge perpetrators of high-priority crimes.