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University of Fort Hare’s head of investigations arrested for murder and attempted murder

University of Fort Hare’s head of investigations arrested for murder and attempted murder
From left: (Photo: Shelley Christians) | Isaac Plaatjies, the University of Fort Hare’s director of investigations and vetting services. (Photo: X.com) | (Photo: Gallo Images / Roger Sedres) | Fort Hare University. (Photo: Abongile Ndevu)

A police task team investigating murder and attempted murder cases involving the University of Fort Hare has arrested the university’s head of investigations and vetting services. He is the 10th suspect allegedly connected to assassinations at the institution.

The SA Police Service national task team responsible for investigating those behind murder and attempted murder cases at the University of Fort Hare on Monday arrested the university’s director of investigations and vetting services.

Isaac Plaatjies made a brief appearance in the Alice Magistrates’ Court on Monday and will appear again on Tuesday when his case will be added to those of nine others who have been arrested in recent months.

The accused are linked to a series of assassinations and attempted assassinations on campus preceding and following a Special Investigating Unit probe into the abuse of state money, fake degrees and corruption.

Those who were arrested in April are:

  • Bongani Peter, Chief Operating Transport Officer: Fort Hare University.
  • Wanini Khuza, retired supervisor of drivers at the University of Fort Hare’s East London campus.
  • Sicelo Mbulawa, former SRC member and businessman who also provides services at the University of Fort Hare.
  • Mthobisi Khanyile, a person with a criminal past hailing from KwaZulu-Natal where, according to the police, he “specialised in taking stolen vehicles across the border”.
  • Mthobisi Dlamini, described by police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe as a “habitual housebreaker” with more than 15 housebreaking and theft cases on his record, and who was operating in KwaZulu-Natal, mainly around Berea, Mayville and Morningside.

The bail applications of all five accused were denied. Mbulawa appealed against the ruling and was granted R75,000 bail by the Eastern Cape High Court sitting in Makhanda.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘The vultures are out’ — Prof Jonathan Jansen highlights corruption and looting at SA universities

In July 2023, a police officer attached to the Madeira SAPS Detection Services in Mthatha, Constable Lindokuhle Manjati, was arrested and charged in the same matter.

In August, Zimele Chiliza, a taxi boss in KwaZulu-Natal, and Pelisa Nkonyeni, the wife of a police officer, were arrested. Nkonyeni is an attorney.

In September, Thamsanqa Mrwetyana was tracked down and arrested in KwaZulu-Natal.

Isaac Plaatjies is the tenth accused.

The accused will appear in the Alice Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, 21 November.

Mathe said Deputy Police Minister Cassel Mathale and National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola will attend the proceedings.

“The task team cannot rule out the possibility of effecting more arrests as investigations are continuing,” she added.

The accused will face charges of murdering Mboneli Vesele, the bodyguard of University of Fort Hare Vice-Chancellor Sakhela Buhlungu, and fleet manager Petrus Roets.

Vesele was gunned down in January 2022 and Roets died in a hail of bullets in May 2022.

Read more in Daily Maverick: We condemn the assassination attempt on the Vice-Chancellor of the University Of Fort Hare

Read more in Daily Maverick: Be part of the renewal of Fort Hare: A clarion call to students, staff and alumni

The accused also face four counts of attempted murder, three of unlawful possession of firearms, unlawful possession of ammunition, fraud, kidnapping and two counts of recklessly discharging a firearm.

University spokesperson JP Roodt confirmed that Plaatjies was the institution’s director of investigations and vetting services.

“He was arrested and taken into police custody on Friday, 17 November 2023, in East London,” said Roodt.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SIU considers new options in Fort Hare probe after Oscar Mabuyane secures interdict

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane wins interdict forcing SIU to back down, pending judicial review

Roodt added: “Plaatjies appears as accused number 10 in the state’s case into the University of Fort Hare staff murders. The employee appeared today in the Alice Magistrates’ Court, and the University further understands the bail application hearing will be in a week.

“The matter is sub judice or before the courts, and the institution does not wish to respond prematurely without having insight into the charges. The national task team appointed by Minister Bheki Cele is responsible for carrying out their work in relation to investigations of the murder of Fort Hare staff members, and the legal proceedings must take their course.” DM

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