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AGE OF THE ASSASSIN

Babita Deokaran killers plead guilty and get jail terms, but the shooter and assassination mastermind remain at large

Babita Deokaran killers plead guilty and get jail terms, but the shooter and assassination mastermind remain at large
Nhlangane Phinda Ndlovu, Phakamani Vincent Hadebe, Zitha Radebe, Sanele Mbhele, Siphiwe Mazibuko and Siphakanyiswa Dladla appear at Johannesburg high court during the Babita Deokaran murder trial in Johannesburg, South Africa. The six plead guilty to Deokaran's murder. (Photo: Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)

The six men received sentences ranging from six to 22 years on Tuesday, but the court and public at large are left with questions on whose instructions the six acted. The National Prosecuting Authority has committed to fighting for justice, starting with pursuing ‘persons of interest’ whose information has been provided by the convicted.  

After spending almost 24 months in custody for allegedly murdering Gauteng Department of Health official and whistle-blower Babita Deokaran, the six men accused of her murder pleaded guilty to all charges and have received differentiated sentencing to effective imprisonment based on the role each played, ranging from six to 22 years. However, the Johannesburg high court heard that the person who shot Deakoran has not been arrested nor has the mastermind behind the assassination been identified. 

This happened just a day before the second anniversary of Deokaran’s murder, which took place on 23 August 2021. The judgments also came two weeks after President Cyril Ramaphosa authorised the Special Investigating Unit to continue probing the R1-billion in irregular tenders at Tembisa Hospital that Babita Deokaran helped uncover before she was assassinated.

Read in Daily Maverick: Two years after Babita Deokaran’s killing, SIU acts, but murder trial sees repeated delays

The six men — Phakamani Vincent Hadebe, Nhlangane Phinda Ndlovu, Sanele Mbhele, Siphakanyiswa Dladla, Zitha Radebe and Siphiwe Thabane Mazibuko — faced charges of murder, attempted murder and the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The count of attempted murder relates to a person who was in Deokoran’s car at the time of the shooting.

Appearing before Johannesburg high court on Tuesday, all men pleaded guilty to the charges. This is after the state and the accused’s defence lawyers entered a  plea and sentence agreement in terms of section 105A(1) of the criminal procedure act 51 of 1977 before trial.

Murdered whistle-blower Babita Deokaran

Murdered whistle-blower Babita Deokaran. (Photo: Supplied | Image sharpened with AI)

Carefully planned assassination

Reading the agreement before the court, State prosecutor Steven Reuben alluded to the assassination being well planned early in the month before the fateful day, with instruction provided by alleged middlemen who were identified only as ‘Khanyisani Mpungose’ and ‘Sithole’.

The affidavit read “During early August 2021 accused 1 was approached by Mpungose who informed him that he required his assistance with the deceased as she was seen as a ‘problematic person’ at her place of employment. Accused 1 then introduced Mpungose to Accused 2, 3, 4 and 5 who would assist. Sithole also known by his clan name Jobe approached accused 6 in mid-August 2021 to scout the residential premises of the deceased. Mgungose provided the two vehicles used during attempts to locate the deceased. And on the day of the incident, he and an unknown adult male fired shots  at the deceased’s vehicle before fleeing away.”

By 26 August 2021, all six had been apprehended by police while  Mpungose, Sithole and the unknown adult male were never seen again by the six accused. 

Before the crime, the accused had close links to the taxi and transport industry, had a highest education level of grade 11 and earned between R1,500 and R 20,000 monthly. A least five of the six accused are fathers to children aged between 3 and 9 years.

 After the court satisfied itself with the agreements and the accused’s affidavits were read before the court, the accused received their differentiated sentencing:

  • Phakamani Vincent Hadebe received 22 years in jail;
  •  Nhlangane Phinda Ndlovu received 6 years;
  • Sanele Mbhele received 22 years;
  • Siphakanyiswa Dladla received 15 years;
  • Zitha Radebe 15 years; and
  • Siphiwe Thabane Mazibuko 15 years.

Read in Daily Maverick: Gunned down a year ago — devastated family pay tribute to Babita Deokaran while murder masterminds remain free

Babita Deokaran killers

The six men appear at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for bail application on 9 December, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images/Papi Morake)

NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane told the media that the state believes the mastermind of the assassination is still at large though they are not known to the state or the accused before the court.

“Investigations will be ongoing because we believe that justice can only be served once we get to the bottom of Babita losing her life for being a whistle-blower against corruption. The sentence that was handed down by the court considered the seriousness of the offence, the interest of the community and the personal circumstances of the accused as dictated by the law. The court has agreed with both the state and the defence that in this case there were substantial and compelling circumstances to deviate from the minimum prescribed sentence… Although the law sets out the minimum prescribed sentence, courts will from time to time deviate from such sentences should there be the existence of circumstances that warrant such deviations.”

Post the court setting, Rakesh Deokaran, brother to the deceased said;

“It makes me sick to my stomach. Yes, fair enough, they did get a sentence but they showed absolutely no conscience or remorse whatsoever. The other sad part is five out of six of all the accused have little kids. Did they not think about what they were doing? Irrespective that they did not even know the person from above. But to murder her in such a cold and calculative way is just sickening to my stomach.” DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • kynetic25 says:

    Sad… life is cheap in SA. The guys responsible will get away as usual.

  • Neil Parker says:

    These were hired guns. We need to know who hired them and we cannot root out the “cancer of corruption” (as de Ruyter put it) until we do. No surprise at all that when de Ruyter tried, he too became an assassin’s target. We honour Babita and we will not forget until justice is properly served.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Maybe one day the pharma companies can come up with a foolproof truth serum. Imagine what it would do for a speedy and accurate and just system of justice.

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    That’s the problem in SA. Justice, if at all, is only half-delivered. The kingpins, the masterminds and the politically connected elite literally get away with murder. We are still waiting for justice in the Durban July riots two years ago. Over 300 lives and billions were lost – we all know who these heartless criminals are but nothing happens. Is it any wonder why there is so much lawlessness and contempt for the law in this country when the rot starts from the top and those described in my 2nd sentence. The vile anc looks after their own – it is unity and retaining power above all.

  • Manfred Hasewinkel says:

    It’s likely that only life sentences would have been meted out if some ANC NDR protagonist had been murdered.

  • Linette Havinga says:

    Go find the mastermind in the circles of those who benefitted, spelled (politicians)

  • david castle says:

    is anyone aware of a photofit of this middleman? Perhaps also a description of an acsent and any other details.
    should be posted on mainstream TV

  • Leslie Stelfox says:

    The people involved in the corruption scandal that Babita exposed should be investigated as they had everything to lose!

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