Friday October 2, 2015, started off as a happy day for billionaire businessman Wandile Bozwana and his business partner Mpho Baloyi as they went shopping at Sandton City. A few hours later Bozwana was dead and Baloyi in hospital with a gunshot wound.
More than nine years later four taxi operators and owners are awaiting sentencing in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, for the assassination. But during the marathon trial which started in 2017, not a word was mentioned as to the motive for the killing.
In the midst of this saga is Vusi Mathibela, said to be a feared man in Mamelodi, and his three co-accused - Sipho Hudla, Matamela Robert Mutapa and Bonginkosi Paul Khumalo.
The four had remained tight-lipped throughout the trial, claiming that they knew nothing about the “hit” on Bozwana.
Bozwana was shot nine times while travelling back from shopping for a belt at Sandton City and having a manicure with Baloyi that morning. Baloyi, who drove the car, survived the hail of bullets fired at them by two gunmen who got out of a car behind them as they stopped at the Garsfontein offramp along the N1.
From the evidence, it is clear that they aimed for the passenger side of the car, where Bozwana was seated.
Baloyi drove for help to a nearby glass centre. Bozwana was rushed to hospital but he died shortly afterwards.
Bozwana’s widow, Tsholofelo Bozwana, was at the time busy packing their bags alongside their children as they were all due to leave for Sun City for a holiday.
She told the court that her life had been shattered the day her husband died as he had been everything to her and their children.
She said she had known him for most of her life as they had studied together.
“My husband promised me the world … He did not let me down.”
She said her “Superman” promised from the start to take care of her and their children - which he did.
A few days before the murder the family had a photo shoot. “Little did I know that it was going to be our last picture as a family.”
The day of the murder was supposed to be a happy day, she said, as they were all preparing to go to Sun City. She was packing their bags when the dreaded phone call came.
Her daughter answered the call and the person on the other side told her that her father had been shot. That moment changed their lives, Mrs Bozwana said.
She described her husband as ambitious and said he was not afraid to challenge and stand for what he believed in.
“He fought for the rights of business people in North West and he helped and supported these compatriots in their quest to make a positive impact in this country.
“He took care of everyone. He created businesses that contributed to unemployment and supported the greater communities in the North West and around Pretoria.”
Mrs Bozwana said when he was murdered, Bozwana had launched a company to lend money to companies that were awarded tenders but did not have the capital to start the projects. The company was due to start operating before the end of 2015.
Her evidence, delivered as part of the State’s victim impact report after the four were convicted of murder, was the first word the court had heard during the trial of Bozwana’s business ventures.
He has been described by others (outside court) as a business mogul who had built his fortune acquiring government contracts. It was also said that four months before his death he stopped tenders worth R470 million allegedly involving influential people.
His widow meanwhile said that his work would live forever through his children and his legacy.
The State proved that the four were involved in his killing although there was no direct evidence to this effect. The case was mostly based on cellphone tracking evidence and video footage taken at Sandton City.
Video footage of the mall was presented to the court where one of the accused was identified as “watching” Bozwana and Baloyi while they shopped and had their nails done at a salon.
While the footage is unclear, a facial recognition expert testified that he could identify some of the other accused by their body language and clothes.
Footage also showed that Mathibela was present that day at nearby Nelson Mandela Square, which he did not deny.
“Confessions” made by some of the accused played a vital part in the trial. Some implicated Mathibela, but they said that the “confessions”were untrue, and that the police had tortured them into “confessing something they knew nothing about”.
In the end, Judge Papi Mosopa accepted the confessions as being true.
In one of the damning confessions, Hudla said Mathibela paid him and his co-accused R60 000 “for the job”.
According to the prosecution - a version accepted by the court - Bozwana and Baloyi were followed while they went to a shoe store inside the Sandton City mall as well as when they visited a hair and nail salon, where each had a manicure and pedicure.
They were then followed to a McDonald’s restaurant in Rivonia Road, as well as when they left and headed back to Pretoria on the N1, where Bozwana was assassinated.
In his “confession”, which was read out in court by the SAPS officer who took it down, Hudla said he was at a taxi rank that day with his friends when one of them said “Vusi” (no surname given in the statement) just phoned and wanted to meet them.
He said they drove to Sandton City where they met Vusi at a hair salon. “Vusi pointed a man out to us inside and said he has a problem with that man and we must kill him,” the confession read.
It further stated that Vusi told them to follow the man, which they did. It is said in the “confession” that when Bozwana and Baloyi stopped at the McDonalds, they also stopped.
Hudla said one of his co-accused got out and came back with a bag, containing a pistol and an AK-47 rifle.
He said the rifle was handed to him and they proceeded to follow Bozwana on the N1 towards Pretoria.
At the Garsfontein offramp he and one of his co-accused got out of the car when it stopped at the traffic lights.
“I went to the left-hand side of the car and Senzo (one of his co-accused) went to the right side. I fired five shots at the man and Senzo fired through the driver’s side,” the statement read.
It was further stated that they then drove back to Alexandra where they stopped at a petrol station and met up with Vusi.
“Vusi thanked us and gave us R60 000, which we shared,” the statement read.
The four received the first blow in their prosecution when the court in 2021 turned down their applications to be cleared of all charges.
Judge Masopa at the time said they must see their trial out to the end as they had a case to answer to.
They asked the court to acquit them at the end of the State’s case, as there was no direct evidence linking them to the assassination. There was also no DNA evidence which linked the accused.
Experts who analysed their phones, however, found that three of the four accused’s phones were at some stage in the vicinity of the incident that day. While the experts could only testify that the cellphone towers had picked up the handsets belonging to each accused, it could not be established who was holding the phone at the time.
Judge Masopa, in turning down their applications to be freed after the State closed its case – said the prosecution had a prima facie (on the face of it) case against the four to which they should answer.
But when it came to the time for the defence to place their versions before the court, nothing had changed as none of the four accused opted to take the witness stand.
They were all subsequently convicted of murder and attempted murder. Apart from placing the hardships they are facing in jail before the court as mitigation before sentence is imposed, they did not place much evidence before the court.
Mathibela called a witness to explain his presence at Sandton City on the day of the murder. A retail salesman testified on his behalf that Mathibela often shopped at high-end stores there. Thus, it was not odd for him to be there on that day.
While sentencing the four had been delayed for a very long time - due to an array of reasons - the four will now finally meet their fate on January 26.