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Suspected activist murder mastermind dies while in police custody

Suspected activist murder mastermind dies while in police custody
Slain activist Loyiso Nkohla in 2016. (Photo: Gallo Images / Nasief Manie)

A suspect believed to be the mastermind behind the murder of Cape Town activist Loyiso Nkohla has died of a heart attack while in police holding cells.

A 39-year-old suspect scheduled to appear in the East London Magistrate’s Court on Friday morning in connection with Loyiso Nkohla’s murder was found dead in the holding cells. 

The Serious Organised Crime Investigation team arrested the suspect in Peddie in the Ngqushwa Local Municipality, within the Amathole District Municipality in the Eastern Cape, on 16 November 2023.

While authorities declined to reveal the identity of the now-deceased suspect, Daily Maverick has it on good authority that the deceased was the individual police and Hawks believed to be the mastermind behind the killing of Nkohla. 

No foul play suspected

Hawks spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Siyabulela Vukubi said the suspect died of a heart attack. No foul play is suspected as it is confirmed that he died of a heart attack early this morning,” he said. No further information was revealed. 

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate is expected to investigate the case.  Nkohla was killed in a hail of bullets at Philippi railway station in Cape Town on 17 April. It is believed that Nkohla was targeted for his role in talks to clear Metrorail’s Central Line, where families had built homes along the line. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Shock and sadness after former ‘poo fighter’ Loyiso Nkohla gunned down in Philippi

Zukisa Tshabile, 38, was first arrested, followed by the roundup of another suspect believed to be one of the shooters, Mziyanda Mdlungu. 

The Hawks traced and arrested 38-year-old Mdlungu in Katlehong, Tshwane, on Monday, 13 November 2023. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Second suspect arrested in connection with activist Loyiso Nkohla’s murder

He appeared in Tshwane Central Magistrate’s Court the following day, and was expected to appear together with Tshabile at Athlone Magistrate Court on Monday. 

The State told the court that Tshabile, Mdlungu and two others, who are still at large, fatally shot Nkohla after being hired to kill him.

Deceased suspected mastermind

The deceased suspect, believed to be the mastermind, was said to be a security company owner, and was linked to the case through cellphone and bank records. 

Nkohla came into the national spotlight in 2013 when he and former ANC councillor Andile Lili led a group of people who dumped faeces on the steps of the Western Cape legislature to protest against Khayelitsha residents’ inadequate sanitation. The “poo protests” resulted in Nkohla facing charges for violation of the Civil Aviation Act, after he and a few others were caught on camera dumping human waste at Cape Town International Airport. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Loyiso Nkohla — a life of activism cut short by a hail of bullets

Nkohla was the son of the late Chief Justice Mabandla (“Aaah! Jongilizwe!”) from the Mabandla royal family, who live near Nqanqarhu (formerly Maclear) in the Eastern Cape. DM

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  • Brendan Murray says:

    39 y/o man dies if a heart attack alone in a police holding cell and officially “no foul play is supected”… is this 2024 or 1984?

    • Vic Mash says:

      I suspect that he was tortured to death, and our courts always dismisses these claims from suspects, knowing very well that the SAPS is full of corrupt and immoral officers, our courts believe them.

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    So, let me get this straight:
    1. This country is experiencing a rise in politically motivated assassinations, especially in KZN, but also in other provinces.
    2. Nkohla, a political activist, died in an apparent hit, suspected to be politically motivated.
    3. The suspected ringleader of the gang of assassins and owner of a so-called “security company” dies in police custody.
    4. The deceased suspect is 39 years old yet the cause of death was concluded to have been a heart attack.
    5. NO FOUL PLAY WHATSOEVER IS SUSPECTED.

    This shouldn’t merely be setting off alarm bells, but loud klaxons! I seriously hope there will be a thorough autopsy and toxicology analysis done by an independent authority.

    Would it really be that far-fetched to imagine that this assassin-for-hire was taken out by a political power player, before he could talk? It may not even be in relation to the Nkohla murder, but instead to keep previous contracts under wraps.

    Unclear in the above article:
    Did the suspect die in the holding cells in Peddie or in East London?
    On which Friday was he scheduled to appear, the 17th or the 24th?
    Did he express any fears for his life after his arrest?
    What was the actual motive for putting a hit on Nkohla — who benefits if the Central Line occupiers stay put?
    Will the cellphone and bank records that exposed the assassins’ ringleader also be examined with a fine-toothed comb to track down his clients — both the recent and the less so?

  • Vic Mash says:

    Katlegong is not in tshwane

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