On Wednesday 8 July, police acting on information from crime intelligence were carrying out surveillance of a vehicle in Bloemfontein suspected to be involved in cash-in-transit heists. In the afternoon, the Mangaung Tactical Response Team moved in on the BMW X5 and arrested the 38-year-old driver.
In the car, there was an R5 rifle, an LM5 rifle, and a pistol – all with serial numbers filed off – ammunition, a hand radio, and an “undisclosed amount of cash”, according to police. There was also equipment suspected to have been used in heists and robberies.
The car belonged to Free State ANC Deputy Chairperson William Bulwana.
The arrest of the yet-unnamed suspect in Bulwana’s car comes less than a month after that of Errol Velile Present, a staffer at ANC headquarters Luthuli House, was apprehended due to his links to cash-in-transit heists, causing suspicion about the party’s involvement in crime.
The suspect will appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court on Monday after being linked to a recent robbery of cash-in-transit guards while they were moving towards their vehicle. SAPS Free State spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thandi Mbambo said pistols, ammunition and what was suspected to be explosives were found at the suspect’s house.
It has been confirmed that the suspect was driving Bulwana’s car. The alleged link to the ANC looks bad for the party.
The ANC fired Present after he was arrested in July along with three other suspects who had been linked to hijacked vehicles and recent cash-in-transit heists in Soweto. Present was also implicated in a reported dodgy land deal for receiving a farm worth at least R97-million from former minister of land reform Gugile Nkwinti.
Both police and the ANC, however, say Bulwana has no link to alleged cash-in-transit robberies.
ANC Free State spokesperson Thabo Meeko said on Sunday that Bulwana was involved in an accident in his X5 in May and his car was towed to a storage facility. It was then transferred to a panel beater and the ANC leader was told the car would be ready in three months.
Meeko said the car, which displayed no registration details at the time of the crime, was then used to commit the heists “without the knowledge of the ANC”.
“The ANC in the province wishes to distance itself from the cash-in-transit heists and criminal networks,” said Meeko.
He condemned such criminal activity.
“There’s no way the ANC is involved in this thing,” he said, welcoming the arrest and making sure to point out that there is no link between the Free State arrest and the arrest of the Luthuli House staffer.
Bulwana has opened a criminal case against those who used his car and the ANC maintains he had no knowledge of what his car was being used for while it was in the shop. Bulwana has opened a case against the arrested driver.
SAPS has cleared Bulwana of having any involvement in the crimes. Spokesperson Mbambo said.
“The statement was obtained from him and he was exonerated from the case and has since opened a case of using a vehicle without owner authority against the arrested man.”
Meeko called the resulting criticism of Bulwana “politically opportunistic”.
“The people who are denigrating the name of the deputy chairperson, especially on social media, we want to condemn them.”
Bulwana was linked to former ANC Free State chair and current party Secretary-General Ace Magashule’s scandal-ridden rule, but there are no easily available allegations of impropriety against the deputy provincial chair in the party.
DA Free State leader Patricia Kopane, however, said Bulwana should have known what was happening in his vehicle.
“We cannot have such people in the province with the leadership,” she said on Sunday.
“It’s not the first time the ANC is involved with such things,” she added. DM