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UKZN employee who was allegedly kidnapped by a colleague, died without justice says his wife

Siphamandla Masikane.

Siphamandla Masikane.

Published Jan 28, 2022

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Durban: Last week was a sad day in the Masikane household. It would have marked the 44th birthday of Siphamandla Masikane, who worked as an investigations officer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). But he died in October last year following Covid-19 complications.

Masikane was the main witness in a criminal trial involving Avril Sahadew. In 2012 she joined the university as a forensic audit specialist. Four years later she took over the investigation of Operation Clever which aimed to probe the sale of placements at the university’s medical school.

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It subsequently emerged that the university had forked out more than R73 million on the investigation. Most of the money, about R42 million, was used to pay for Sahadew's guards, cars and a safe house for her to live in.

The university said Sahadew had received threats but did not elaborate.

In 2017, Masikane claimed to have information that implicated Sahadew in certain irregularities. He claimed that when he approached her, her bodyguards (paid for by the university) locked him in her office until he provided whatever evidence he had.

Masikane reported the matter to the university but was suspended for two years while his claims were investigated. In 2019, he appealed his suspension and was reinstated to his position.

He then opened a case of defeating the ends of justice, kidnapping, and crimen injuria against Sahadew at the Westville SAPS.

As a result, Sahadew was removed from Operation Clever. The matter was being heard in the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court when Masikane died. It has since been withdrawn.

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Masikane's widow, Hlengiwe, said she was disappointed that her husband had died without getting justice.

"He was an upright man. He stood for justice and when he saw someone doing something wrong, he believed they needed to face the consequences. My husband was a good person, who only wanted to expose the wrongdoings at the university," said Hlengiwe.

Hlengiwe said before joining UKZN, Masikane worked for the Newcastle SAPS Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit.

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She said on the day her husband was allegedly being held captive, he was due to fetch their children - now aged 8 and 10 - from school.

"I was at the gym and my phone was in a locker. Our children had to wait at school until 7.30pm to be fetched. They were traumatised and so were we. We went through so much as a result of his suspension. He had to fight for his job.

"This last week has been difficult for me and our children. Other than his birthday, last week was also the first day of school for the children. My husband was always so excited to drop the kids off at school and take pictures of them. This year, we felt the void.

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"We could not even bring ourselves to take pictures because he was not with us.

Meanwhile, Visham Panday, an anti-corruption activist, who has lobbied for justice at UKZN, said: "It is sad that the complainant will not receive justice and that nothing would now come of the criminal charges.

Natasha Kara, the spokesperson for the NPA in KZN, said: "The matter was withdrawn in October 2021 due to the death of the complainant. The complainant was required to give evidence in regard to all charges faced by the accused. Please note we were advised that the complainant died of natural causes."

Normah Zondo, the executive director for corporate relations at UKZN, said: "The university is unable to disclose any information relating to its employees and has no comment to make regarding the criminal matter between the State and Ms Sahadew."

Sahadew did not respond to messages and calls for comment. Her attorney, Justin Bagwandeen, said: "My client has always maintained that the charges in question were a fabrication. She remained confident throughout proceedings that she would be found innocent of all charges against her."

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