Suspects in Rwandan dissident killing didn’t open fire, court hears

Photo: Steve Buissinne/Pixabay

The circumstances surrounding the fatal shooting of Camir Nkurunziza became murkier after testimony from the investigating officer.

There was no gunfire from accused number one and two,” testified investigating officer Sergeant Karen Richards at the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court.

This is the latest information regarding the death of Camir Nkurunziza, the Rwandan dissident and Uber driver who was hijacked and murdered on 30 May 2019 in Goodwood.

Phiwe Zwelinjani, 24, from Mfuleni, and Sivatho Tshaka, 28, from Delft, – both of whom were previously unidentified – appeared in court for a bail application on Monday, June 10. The two first appeared in court on 3 June. A third suspect, Thabo Majeke, 34, died at the murder scene.

The two were denied bail.

This new information heard by the court puts into question whether Nkurunziza died in crossfire during a shootout between police and the accused or whether the Rwandan dissident was shot by SAPS officers.

The details of the event are still murky. However, Richards, who was at the scene during the incident, testified that the hijacked vehicle, a Toyota Etios, stopped suddenly in the middle of the road, then ran a red traffic light. SAPS Flying Squad officers noticed people scuffling in the back seat.

We put on sirens to make them stop but they went on,” Richards told the court.

A high-speed chase ensued before the hijacked vehicle collided with a Toyota and a BMW. The BMW hit a third car.

Richards claimed that Zwelinjani, who was the driver, and a passenger emerged from the vehicle, and one of them charged at her with a knife. Police then opened fire.

It is unclear whether the “passenger” was Majeke (the deceased suspect) or Tshaka.

Moses Dlamini, the spokesperson for police watchdog Ipid, told Daily Maverick they are investigating whether Nkurunziza died “because of police action”.

We are also investigating whether the police action was justified under the circumstances. If the version of the police is that they were shot at and therefore retaliated – for instance – then the evidence will either confirm or disprove it. If it disproves it, then it means the police action was not justified and therefore the police must be held to account,” said Dlamini.

So there’s two crucial things we need, one is the post-mortem report, the other one is the ballistics report. They are still outstanding. Only when we have them will we be able to say who shot and from what angle.”

He said the firearm found in the vehicle would have to be tested to determine whether “it was in fact discharged on the day”.

There will be residue tests done on the deceased and all the other people in the car and on the police as well to determine which policeman fired,” Dlamini explained.

According to the charge sheet, the firearm in question was a 9mm pistol. Richards testified that the pistol was found on the passenger side of the vehicle. The serial number was scratched out.

There is confusion about the exact charges, as the court charge sheet only lists reckless/negligent driving and possession of a firearm. However, the charges read out by the magistrate, Sean Lea, include robbery, possession of stolen property and murder.

The stolen property was from a robbery committed earlier in the day in Khayelitsha. A driving licence, identity document, and four or five cellphones, one belonging to Nkurunziza, were allegedly found in the vehicle.

The case was remanded to 10 September 2019, pending further investigation.

Nkurunziza, a former member of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s guard, was actively opposed to the changing of the country’s constitution after a referendum in 2017 to allow Kagame to run for another term.

According to an article published in Daily Maverick, Nkurunziza was linked to the militant National Liberation Front (FNL), which is in opposition to the Kagame regime.

South Africa has a strained diplomatic relationship with Rwanda. DM


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