Johannesburg – Somehow the two found the house hidden behind high walls just off Botha Avenue in Centurion.
Like so many other walk-in people, they had come that morning out of frustration and had traveled far.
To get there had taken a trip of 900 km, by night bus from Mtontsasa in the Eastern Cape to Johannesburg. Then taxi ride to Centurion. Finally, at the door, they were able to convince the security guard to let them in.
Both men had a story to tell, one of a double murder and the known killers who, years later, were still roaming free.
The converted suburban house they found themselves in is AfriForum’s private prosecutor’s office.
Property is hard to find but it hasn’t stopped the countless people who arrive unexpectedly, desperate and, at times, penniless.
“People have come here who have sold their cars, their homes and have nothing left,” says one of the investigators, Andrew Leask.
“We have people who sit here and don’t even have the money to go home. We had to take them to the garage and give them half a tank of fuel.
For many, the money had disappeared into lawyers or private investigators, in the hope that a case could finally be resolved and the perpetrators brought to justice.
The existence of the private prosecutor’s office only became more widely known when it was announced that the unit would assist the family of murdered Bafana Bafana football captain Senzo Meyiwa. Since then, the small group of investigators has been inundated with requests from people who have lost faith in the police and the government.
The unit processes more than 300 cases in certain months.
Leask believes they might be the only such private prosecution unit in the world.
They don’t take cold suitcases. They hold municipalities accountable and fight corruption. There are times when they head to court and engage the state with private lawsuits.
And they do it for free.
Two-thirds of the requests, Leask says, come from black South Africans who are not members of the civil rights organization.
The two walk-in people from Mtontsasa arrived in November 2019. They had heard about the unit due to its involvement in the Meyiwa case. With the help of a translator, they set about telling their story.
The old man was a village elder, while the young man’s father was the murder victim.
Their village had decided to send them to seek the private prosecutor’s office because they felt that the police were not doing enough to solve the two murders.
They explained how, on September 24, 2018, Zweli Bonile Nganga was shot dead in his home. The young man’s sister was shot several times as she struggled with the gunman. Their younger brother, aged four to five, was shot in the hand.
“The younger boy identified the suspect, but the police did nothing,” says investigator Elias (Slang) Maangwale.
The shooting appeared to be linked to a leadership dispute. After the shooting, the two said there were threats against the family. A year later, the mother, Victoria Nganga, was shot dead.
The killers were known to the community but the police, they said, did not act.
After learning that the unit would review the case, the two immediately left to begin their journey back to the Eastern Cape.
The unit progressed rapidly.
“We filed a complaint with the provincial police and asked them to change the investigators. Now they’ve made arrests and the cases are in court, ”Leask said.
Work Files is a small multidisciplinary team made up of lawyers and former police officers. Police investigators are former members of the Scorpions, each with decades of experience dealing with high-profile cases.
As with the double murder in the Eastern Cape, many of their cases involve investigating the work of their former colleagues, which has left people with unanswered questions and trauma. Some of them are real head shaking tricks.
A recent case involved the nephew of a professor who ran away from a drug rehab center and then disappeared.
The man had been missing for six months before the private prosecution team was approached. It wasn’t long before they could piece together what had happened.
They discovered that he had crossed a road near De Deur and had been struck by a car. He was taken to hospital but later died.
“The family reported the son missing and the accident happened the same night he fled. Thus, the same police station is investigating culpable homicide and the case of a missing person. The police don’t put two and two together. We found the body six months later in the Sebokeng mortuary, ”Leask said.
Sometimes it is not just the actions of the police that cause people to seek help from the unit. One case investigators were involved in concerned a questionable verdict by a magistrate in a rape conviction.
The crime took place in September 2018 and the victim filed a rape complaint soon after.
The victim’s family contacted AfriForum, saying there had been bribery attempts to get them to drop the case.
After becoming involved, the prosecution pressured the police to properly investigate the case, which led to the arrest of Kebabaletsoe Motseko.
Motseko pleaded guilty to the rape charge in the Ga-Rankuwa Magistrates’ Court. He was given the choice between eight years’ imprisonment or a fine of R10,000.
“What is curious is that on the day he pleaded guilty, he was fined R10,000 in a rape case, which is unheard of,” says lawyer Wico Swanepoel, who is member of the unit and had a briefing in the trial.
“The accused’s mother took the exact amount from his bra, went to pay the money and he was gone.”
The unit wrote a letter to the head of the national prosecution, Shamila Batohi.
The North West Division of the NPA said it will appeal the fine for the convicted rapist.
NPA northwest branch spokesman Henry Mamothame said the conviction appeal process was underway.
“Leave to appeal the sentence has been granted and in the meantime we are scheduling a date for the hearing of the main appeal,” he said.
The problem with hits like this is that the news gets out and there will be more knocking on the door, emails in inboxes, or written letters. Each with a sad and frustrating story.
“They come to us and tell us we can’t anymore,” Leask said.
The Saturday Star
Warriors for Justice – AfriForum’s private prosecutor’s office fights for the families of the victims
SourceWarriors for Justice – AfriForum’s private prosecutor’s office fights for the families of the victims