The lawyer for two union members who were shot dead for demanding that those implicated in the VBS Bank saga be arrested has spoken about his close brush with death.
Advocate Nndwamato Themeli, who was representing slain SA Municipal Workers Union [Samwu] officials Tshililo Timson Musetsho and Ronald Mani, was hit by eight bullets after being shot 23 times in August last year.
Musetsho and Mani were employees in the Vhembe District Municipality and dismissed – subsequently murdered in separate incidents – for speaking out against the municipality’s decision to invest R300mn of taxpayers money into the ill-fated VBS Bank.
The municipality lost its entire investment.
Themeli said he was hit eight times in August last year outside his home shortly after returning from a meeting in Polokwane.
He recalled how he had returned home after attending a meeting with municipal officials after they had approached him in an attempt to try and settle the matter out of court.
“When I was trying to open the gate at home, two men who were inside a car started firing shots at me.
“Outside the scene of crime, 23 coverings of bullets were also recovered. I only survived by the grace of God,” he said.
Themeli was admitted at an undisclosed hospital in Pretoria fearing that if his location be known, the killers might want to “finish him off.”
He spent five months in hospital and was released in January this year.
“I was in a critical condition. After recovering, I was on a wheelchair and I could still feel some pains on my legs,” he said.
Ironically, the meeting between Themeli and the municipality was held in Polokwane and not Thohoyandou where both parties are based.
The day he was released from hospital, Themeli was set to meet with Musetsho to discuss the case.
But the unionist was killed that very day.
“In the evening when I heard that he had been killed, I suspected that my attack could be linked to the duo’s [VBS] case I was dealing with,” he told Mukurukuru Media.
Themeli says he is hopeful that in the end, justice will be served. “It might take some time but it will happen,” he said.
Two weeks ago the parliamentary portfolio committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), heard during its hearings into the VBS saga in Thohoyandou, that municipalities could not provide service delivery after losing their money in the bank heist.
A community leader revealed during the hearings that residents who lost their money in the saga had stayed away for fear they would be targeted and killed if they spoke out.
On Monday eSwatini national Thabo Sibandze appeared briefly in the Thohoyandou magistrates’ court on a charge of intimidation.
He was arrested after allegedly throwing pistols at the homesteads of two SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members. This occurred shortly after the killings of Musetsho and Mani.
During court proceedings, prosecutor Mashudu Nekhumbe asked for the postponement of the case to 25 November.
She said the state has to still submit the case’s docket to the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP) for a decision.
Magistrate Thifhuriwi Ligege then sought to know just when the investigations will be finalised since the case has been postponed for quite a long time now.
“We tried to get feedback from the office regarding the case but the thing is the office caters for all SA cases. But in two weeks, investigations will be finalised,” said Nekhumbe.
Sibandze, 27, was allegedly arrested in Katlehong, Ekurhuleni after he was traced through threatening phone calls he had made to the two Samwu officials, telling them to stop being vocal about the VBS scandal.
Prior to that, he had thrown pistols at their homes accompanied by a letter addressing them to back off in fighting corruption at the district.
Sibandze also faces a count of illegal immigration after it was found that he had entered the country without proper documentation.
The case was postponed to November 25 while the suspect remains in custody.
Former uMkhonto we Sizwe combatant Mbulaheni David Peter ‘Dambuza’ Malada told picketing crowds outside the Thohoyandou Magistrates’ Court that Police Minister Bheki Cele should deal with Thohoyandou police for failing to arrest those implicated in the VBS saga.
The MK veteran was speaking where scores of people including members of Contralesa, SACP, Cosatu, Sanco and the ANC joined a picket dubbed ‘justice for Mani and Musetsho.’
“Bheki must come and deploy these police officials somewhere because they are not offering any services,” he said.
None of the 53 politically connected people and business people implicated in the looting of VBS have been arrested so far.
Themeli told Mukurukuru Media that Mani and Musetsho had opened a case of unfair dismissal against the municipality.
He said the pair also wanted the disciplinary hearing against them dropped after it was alleged that they had brought the municipality into disrepute.