Six suspects appeared in the Johannesburg Central Magistrate’s Court on charges relating to the murder of Gauteng health department senior financial official Babita Deokaran. Investigators believe her death was a targeted hit linked to her involvement as a witness in a R332-million PPE scandal.
The suspects were charged with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder, and possession of unlicenced firearms and ammunition.
The six were remanded in custody, pending an investigation for a formal bail application, for which they will be back in court on 13 September.
Ndivhuwo Mulamu, communication officer at the Hawks, told the media that none of the suspects who appeared in court was a health department official, and that they are from KwaZulu-Natal.
The suspects, in order of appearance, are: Phakamani Hadebe; ZithaHadebe; Nhlangano Ndlovu; Sanele Mbele; Siphiwe Mazibuko and Phakanyiswe Dladla.
Phindi Mjonondwane, regional communication manager for the National Prosecuting Authority, explained that the suspects are also charged with attempted murder because, according to the docket, Deokaran was with another person in the vehicle during the incident.
“The person who was with the deceased during the shootout is at this point safe and she was not injured. However, hence we adding the conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder on the charge.”
Seven suspects were arrested last Friday (27 August) in relation to the murder, but only six appeared in court on Monday.
See also previous story here: Seven suspects to appear in court on Monday in connection with murder of whistle-blower Babita Deokaran
Mjonondwane told the media that the seventh suspect that was arrested could not be placed on the roll due to a lack of evidence, stating, “he was not charged at all, because currently we don’t have any evidence that suggests that he is linked to the alleged crime.”
Mulamu added that the reason the seventh suspect was originally arrested was due to his connection with another suspect, “when we followed up on information that we received during our operation last week, the seventh suspect was with one of the suspects who is linked to the crime committed.
“So he was brought in for questioning. However, through the information that we collectively received on our investigation, he was not linked to any crime that was committed. However, a case against him at this moment is provisionally being drawn, pending investigation.”
Mulamu confirmed that more arrests are imminent, saying: “We still have outstanding suspects that we are looking into; there’s intelligence that we are working with and we are following up on that information. And we can actually confirm that more arrests will be imminent.”
Later, Mulamu added: “We are very much sure that the [investigation team] out there, working with intelligence and other law enforcement who are helping to trace all the suspects who are linked to this crime, will [bring them] to book.” DM