Yesterday, January 8, the ANC was celebrating its 108th anniversary, but one of its staunch members was missing from the celebration. He was killed on the anniversary of his beloved organisation, exactly ten years ago.
As ANC leaders were cutting the cake and popping the champagne, the family of a Sammy Mpatlanyane was instead observing a moment of grief, still mourning his death after he uncovered acts of corruption in government.
“We are still bleeding,” that’s all Mpatlanyane’s widow, Pinky would say when asked how they have been since her husband was murdered on the morning of 8 January 2010.
Sammy Mpatlanyane was shot dead in his sleep at his house in Mbombela.
What followed thereafter were statements from provincial government politicians and officials which suggested that she was responsible for her husband’s death, but when it turned out that the gun that ended Mpatlanyane’s life belonged to a Mbombela policeman, they went silent without clearing her of any wrongdoing.
Pinky believes that the sudden silence from the authorities was not accidental, but it was because the police could not dispute her statement and the people she identified as the killers of her husband.
My husband’s killers came from government
“I was advised not to make a statement, because the police seemed determined to arrest me, but I insisted on making the statement, because my husband had told me everything that was happening at his work place before he was killed. My statement was very clear about where the hit came from and they knew that they would not win in court by trying to smear me with the crime.
“I told the police that my husband’s killers came from the government (department culture, sports and recreation). His seniors had wanted him to sign for the payment to a service provider, who had already been paid for the same service, but he refused. Unfortunately, he had to go to Germany on a sabbatical in preparation for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
“When he returned from Germany, he discovered that the irregular payment had been made and that his signature had been forged as though he was the signatory. Whoever forged his signature got the spelling wrongly. They had written Mphatlanyane instead of Mpatlanyane. One of the things that gave them away was the date on the forged documents because the handwriting was not similar to the way he wrote numbers.
“He had a unique way of writing the number 7 and when he showed me I immediately knew that it was not my husband’s signature and handwriting. When I confirmed, he was relieved and said, ‘At least I have a witness’. That’s why they killed him,” she said.
But that was not the end of the shenanigans. Pinky says that when the police came to investigate the killing, one of the policemen took the murder weapon and hid it.
“The police suddenly claimed they could not find the gun, which was so strange because we were the ones who showed them the weapon in the first place and we saw the policeman who took it. We argued with them, but when we stood our ground and pointed out the policeman who had taken the gun, only then did he produce it. I think that the police did not want us to know that the gun that killed Sammy belonged to them and this raised a lot of suspicions, judging by the events that unfolded,” she said.
Indeed, when the ballistic results returned, they confirmed that the gun belonged to a Mbombela policeman. That’s when claims that the policeman’s gun had been stolen by a Mozambican started to emerge. This led to the arrest of three foreign nationals.
Fake identity parade and tempering with the crime scene
The National Prosecuting Authority, however, seemed to have its own doubts about the police’s version of events. In 2012 they confirmed that they had requested the instituting of two investigations in relation to the case.
“We have instructed an investigation against the investigating officer in the case for allegedly faking an identification parade. The officer whose firearm was stolen and used in the murder is also to be investigated for allegedly lying to the court of law during his testimony,” NPA provincial spokesman Medupi Simasiku said back in 2012.
Simasiku said the investigation would also establish whether the crime scene had been tampered with or not.
However, like all political and corruption cases in Mpumalanga province, nothing came of the investigations.
A few weeks later, Simasiku issued a statement that shocked the Mpatlanyane family.
“The Nelspruit circuit of the Gauteng High Court provisionally withdrew murder charges against Mozambican national, Nito Mashava (26), Tanzanian, Omary Issa (26) and Congolese Tupac “Abu” Ntumba (25) after psychiatric evaluation results for Mashava “declared him unfit to stand trial”, according to the National Prosecuting Authority.
“An application for referral for psychiatric evaluation was made and the results came out (on the) 20th of June 2012 which basically declared him unfit to stand trial as he is not in a position to contribute meaningfully to the proceedings, and thus he will not be in a position to assist in formulating his own defence,” said Simasiku at the time.
What was missing in Simasiku’s statement was that Mashava had earlier claimed that he had been beaten to a pulp by the police to confess to the killing. His injuries were still visible and fresh when he appeared in court.
Mpatlanyane’s widow could not hide her feelings when she heard the news.
“I am deeply shocked and devastated with the withdrawal of the case, but not surprised with the South African law. This type of modus operandi was used by the old government against blacks and it is so sad that today it is emulated and practiced by blacks on blacks,” she said.
To this day, Pinky Mpatlanyane is still inconsolable. She also believed that the police’s theory that her husband was murdered by foreigners was merely to deflect public attention from the real killers and the motive for his murder.
“These people have caused me grave pain, sorrow and suffering. Thanks to the citizens from other Southern African Development Community SADC countries (who) came together, conspired and subsequently agreed on the execution of my husband. This is just one proof that this assignment was highly organised and of great importance in the province,” she said then.
One of Mpatlanyane’s children was only Six years old when his father was killed.
“He is beginning to ask many questions now, and I think this matter has affected him negatively,” she his mother.
During a previous interview, Pinky Mpatlanyane predicted that the Mpumalanga provincial government would collapse, and when asked if she still held those views ten years later? She did not mince her words.
“Mpumalanga has collapsed, the minute the Save Mpumlanga was formed. They turned against each other, today they are all enemies. Now they can’t even choose their own chairperson,” she said.