Still no sign of promised arrests of ’hit masterminds’ as six appear in court over Deokaran’s killing
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Johannesburg – As the six men accused of murdering Gauteng health official Babita Deokaran made their way to the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court dock yesterday, a question lingered: what of the more arrests authorities vowed were on the cards?
Soon after the arrests of Phakamani Hadebe, Zitha Hadebe, Sanele Mbele, Nhlangano Ndlovu, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswa Dladla and their first court appearance two weeks ago, authorities spoke with confidence that more suspects were due to be nabbed.
“We can confirm that more arrests are imminent actually,” captain Ndivhuwo Mulamu, spokesperson for the Hawks in Gauteng, told a group of journalists at the time.
“We still have outstanding suspects that we are looking into. There’s intelligence that we're working with and we're following up on that information.”
Speculation grew that these further arrests would include alleged masterminds behind Deokaran’s apparent hit.
One news report went as far as stating that a senior government and political party official had become a person of interest to the Hawks' crack team probing Deokaran’s killing.
The killing was suspected to be linked to the ongoing investigation into personal protective equipment (PPE) fraudulent contracts corruption in the Gauteng Health Department. Deokaran was believed to be a key witness and a whistle-blower in the probe.
Also, Police Minister Bheki Cele announced that two more suspects had been arrested in connection with the murder.
“The story is that it was an expensive exercise, with people getting lots of money each (to carry out the) mission of killing Babita Deokaran,” Cele had stated.
But it became clear yesterday at the court that Mbele, Ndlovu, Mazibuko, Dladla and the Hadebe duo still faced the rap alone.
They were arrested in KwaZulu-Natal a week after Deokaran was ambushed and shot dead at her Winchester Hills home in Joburg’s south.
The men faced charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and possession of unlicensed arms and ammunition.
Phindi Mjonondwane, Joburg spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority, insisted that charges against more suspects should not be ruled out.
“Well, investigations are ongoing and we can therefore not exclude the possibility of more arrests, but we'll be guided by the investigation,” she told journalists.
“If the investigation points to more people that must be arrested, then that will happen. If not, then we’ll proceed with the accused that we have before court.”
The six were due to bring bail applications yesterday but their lawyer Shafique Sarlie asked for a postponement.
Sarlie told the court he needed time to consult with his clients before arguing for their bails.
He had barely managed to consult with them due to Covid-19 restrictions at the Johannesburg Prison, the court heard.
Magistrate Simon Sibanyoni postponed the case. The bail applications will be heard on October 1 and 5.