2007-01-04 : 'Surge in contract killings'


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2007-01-04 : 'Surge in contract killings'

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2007-01-10 14:40

'Surge in contract killings'

Monako Dibetle and Kwanele Sosibo | Johannesburg, South Africa


04 Jan 2007 23:59

The recent arrest of Mulalo Sivhidzo in connection with the murder of Avhatakali Netshisaulu, the son of City Press editor Mathatha Tsedu, points to a possible national surge in contract killings, analysts say.

Netshisaulu’s wife of several months, Sivhidzo, is alleged to have contracted several men to carry out the brutal murder last month of her husband, which was made to look like a carjacking.

Last December, the execution-style murder of Cape Town entertainer Taliep Pietersen in his fortified home in Athlone was initially made to look like a robbery. Although arrests have yet to be made, his wife, Najwa, is understood to have been questioned several times by the police. The couple were said to be having marital problems at the time of his death.

Elrena van der Spuy of the University of Cape Town’s criminology department said that while contract killings are not a new phenomenon, they have sprung into public consciousness because they are increasingly being used to settle personal matters. “It has infiltrated into an intimate setting,” she continued. “People involved in interpersonal affairs are turning into assassins.”

Van der Spuy added that, in general, contract killings could be separated into two categories: those carried out professionally, usually to settle an economic dispute involving a substantial sum of money, and those carried out with less discretion and usually driven by emotion.

Criminal-law specialist William Booth said that people were hiring killers more because, “subconsciously they believe it will remove them from the scene; it will throw suspicion away from them because it would be the word of a criminal against theirs”.

Speculating on the reasons behind this perceived surge, which has been acknowledged by several senior police officials who spoke to the Mail & Guardian off the record, Booth said that the country’s socio-economic conditions could be a factor, but the media was also not blameless. “It could be that the media is focusing more on this type of crime because the people involved in it are usually high profile. But how many more such murders happen in South Africa and nobody knows about them?”

He added that the majority of contract killers approached in South Africa were not professional marksmen and did it purely out of desperation.

Although women feature prominently in the recent spate of contract killings, a study done in 2000 by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation revealed that for every woman who kills her partner, four men kill their partners. According to the study, of all domestic murder cases that make it to court, only 5% were motivated by economic gain. Most murders, the study showed, happen within the context of domestic violence.

However, recent cases suggest that money is increasingly the main motivation behind those who hire contract killers. Last month Christina Molokomme, a Polokwane police officer, was arrested for allegedly conspiring in the kidnapping of her husband, Scorpions detective Phillip Molokomme. The plot was conceived after Molokomme came across information detailing the benefits payable to her in the event of her husband’s death. Two hired hit men are alleged to have used Molokomme’s police-issue firearm and her remote control and door keys to gain access to their home.

Police were tipped off about the plot and managed to come to Molokomme’s rescue after he had been kidnapped. His wife was subsequently arrested for conspiring in the kidnapping.

In another incident, Albert Mojapelo was murdered by three hit men in September 2005 in Orange Farm, the day before he was to receive R1-million in retirement and pension payouts. The incident was made to look like a carjacking. His wife, Tinky Mojapelo, her friend, Antoinette Masuku, and an alleged Mozambican hit man, Orlando Mandoza, were subsequently arrested for Mojapelo’s murder and kidnapping.

The Mojapelos were said to have been experiencing marital difficulties and Albert was reportedly threatening to file for divorce. Tinky and Masuku have since been released on R5 000 bail each, while Mandoza remains in police custody.

In 2004 Kgomotso Tladi of Middelburg in Mpumalanga paid three hit men a whopping R450 000 “to scare” her pharmacist husband Andrew Tladi. Andrew’s executioners carjacked and shot him dead in the boot of his luxury sedan in Groblersdal on December 3.

In her confession of the crime in November last year, Tladi told the Middelburg Circuit Court that her husband wanted her to relocate to Polokwane with him against her will. She claimed to have hired three hit men only to persuade him to reconsider his decision.

She now faces charges of kidnapping and murder, together with her co-conspirators, Eva Sithole, Gilbert Makhubela and Samson Mogalaka.

According to Van der Spuy, the circumstances surrounding each contract killing vary, ranging from settling scores between estranged lovers to ousting enemies in political turf wars.

“I think it says what we already know,” said Van der Spuy, about the meaning of these cases. “That South Africans love violence and are using it more readily.”
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