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More suspects in court in connection with Fort Hare murder probe

Thulisile Mapongwana

Slain rapper, AKA’s former bodyguard is among the 12 suspects applying for bail from Wednesday in an Eastern Cape Court following their weekend arrest on charges relating to cases of murder and attempted being investigated at Fort Hare University.

The SAPS national task team arrested 15 suspects in various provinces, including in Gauteng, the Eastern and the Western Cape, and KwaZulu-Natal.

They join ten others implicated in the murders of Fort Hare fleet manager, Petrus Roets and Vice-Chancellor Sakhele Buhlungu’s bodyguard, Mboneli Vesele.

The 15 appeared in the Dimbaza magistrates court on Tuesday, with Police Minister Bheki Cele and Professor Buhlungu attending  proceedings.

Businessman and AKA’s former bodyguard, Anwar Khan, owns the security company, Pentagon, which was contracted to guard senior staff members at the university after the attempted shootings of Buhlungu and his Deputy, Renuka Vithal.

The state alleges that his company also started “the trail of money” that trickled down to the alleged hitmen behind Vesele’s murder.

On Tuesday, two of the suspects, Gosain Wayne van der Haar and Sarah Pearl Burger were granted bail of R50 000 each. Their bail application was unopposed by the state.

Alleged tender fraud by arrested UFH staff

Isaac Plaatjies is believed to have been behind the tender fraud scheme which milked the university over R170 million from 2019.

The state alleges Plaatjies also used his position as the university’s director of investigations and vetting services to get financial kickbacks from service providers namely Pentagon, Tarlec, Craig Retief, EL Reigns, Horizon, and Elvis Mutsakanyi.

He and co-accused and former UFH employee, Anna Susana Smith allegedly selected the service providers.

According to the state human resources director, Dr Paul  Tladi, the director of supply chain management, Mbulelo Gingcana, and the financial manager, Louis Nkateko Mawila, were also allegedly receiving kickbacks from three of the service providers.

The money was allegedly paid to Tladi’s wife, Lucrecia Davids, and she would thereafter distribute the money to four of her co-accused. 

Nozuko Mabombo was the general manager in Buhlungu’s office and oversaw the signing of tender contracts with service providers. She allegedly received money from Pentagon and Tarlec.

She also allegedly faked a shooting incident and laid charges of attempted murder to cause panic in the already volatile atmosphere of the university.

Meanwhile, Van der Haar was in the Information Technology Department and allegedly received money for assisting Retief in securing the tender to provide forensic cyber investigation services.

Bradley Conradie and Sarah Burger are the directors of Horizon Forensic, which also provides investigative services to the university.

All these service providers were allegedly getting payments from UFH from as early as 2019.

In April 2022, the newly appointed chief financial officer raised queries about payments to service providers without written service level agreements.

Plaatjies is also alleged to have made an application to the UFH Council for a deviation from the tender process, and for the request to be backdated to 2019.

R8 million was thereafter set aside for the recruitment of service providers.

The Shootings

These tenders come before the 17 March 2022 attack on Professor Buhlungu, his deputy, Professor Renuka Vithal, and bodyguard Vesele.

Following the shootings, Plaatjies was handpicked to lead the Investigations unit and mandated to come up with recommendations to safeguard UFH senior staff members.

He then allegedly negotiated with Pentagon in May and Khan, through Joubert, sent a quotation of R1. 4 million per month for five security guards.

The quotation was submitted on 19 May 2022, the same day Roets was gunned down. 

The state alleges that Plaatjies used this as a means to influence the recruitment of Pentagon.

In January 2023, before the shooting of Vesele on the 6th, there was a money trail from Pentagon to Sihle Gumede and Zimele Chiliza.  Chiliza, who is also one of the suspects, allegedly coordinated the hitmen.

Plaatjies abandoned his bail application on Tuesday pending his appeal in the magistrate's court in Dikeni, formerly Alice.

Meanwhile, the remaining 12 suspects will apply for bail from Wednesday.