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Seven arrested, including alleged ‘mastermind’, for murder of rapper AKA – Police Minister Cele

Seven arrested, including alleged ‘mastermind’, for murder of rapper AKA – Police Minister Cele
Rapper Aka performs during the Miss Mamelodi Sundowns 2020 at the Gallagher Convention Centre on 8 March 2020 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Frennie Shivambu)

Five of the seven suspects are due to appear in court on Thursday. The award-winning rapper and his former manager were gunned down on Florida Road, Durban, in February 2023.

Seven people have been arrested and detained in connection with the murder of South African rapper Kiernan Jarryd Forbes, known professionally as AKA, and his former manager and friend, Tebello “Tibz” Motsoane.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said late on Tuesday night that six people were arrested. On Wednesday, a seventh suspect, a 30 year-old, was apprehended.

Bheki Cele, SA Police Minister during the SAPS media briefing about a breakthrough in the Kiernan “AKA” Forbes murder case at SAPS KZN Provincial Offices on February 27, 2023 in Durban.  (Photo: Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)

The suspects were due to appear in court on Thursday, said Cele at a late-night press conference at the South African Police Service (SAPS) headquarters in Durban. He did not specify which court. 

Cele was joined by the KZN provincial commissioner, Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi and National Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Fannie Masemola. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: 30 people die by the gun every day in SA – it’s time to stop the violence

Forbes (35) and Motsoane were fatally shot on Florida Road in Morningside, Durban, on 10 February 2023. 

The shooting took place outside the Wish on Florida restaurant. Police said Forbes and Motsoane were walking to their car when they were approached by two armed men who crossed the street and shot them at close range. 

The shooting was captured on CCTV footage published by TimesLIVE and widely circulated on social media. 

Poster during a night prayer for AKA and Tebello ‘Tibz’ Motsoane outside Wish on Florida Restaurant on 12 February 2023 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

“These six [suspects] — they played different roles during the operation. We have the coordinator, who is basically the master of everything. He is in custody. We have two shooters. We have two spotters — one of the spotters was inside the restaurant observing, watching Mr Forbes and his friends — as well as the organiser of firearms and vehicles, because the vehicle used as a getaway and firearms used to shoot, they were all hired,” Mkhwanazi said. 

One of the spotters initially followed Forbes from the airport on arrival, to his hotel and the Wish on Florida restaurant, Mkhwanazi said. This person was also responsible for gathering the team of hitmen and the resources, and paying them “their rewards” when the job was done.

Some of the suspects, who weren’t named, were linked to other murder cases, Mkhwanazi said.

The SAPS had recovered four vehicles, a firearm and “cartridges that were picked up from the crime scene that were linked with another crime scene where another shooting happened”, Mkhwanazi said.

The first vehicle a Mercedes-Benz was recovered on 6 March 2023, and the firearm that was used to shoot Forbes was recovered on 22 April. 

“On 23 June 2023, the team after recovering the cartridges linked them together and were able to confirm that that firearm was used in both murder scenes,” he said.

“A BMW was recovered on 2 August that’s the vehicle that was trailing Mr Forbes when he landed in KZN.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tributes pour in for SA rapper AKA and his ex-manager after fatal shooting outside Durban restaurant

AKA was an award-winning, internationally acclaimed hip-hop artist with several albums under his belt. 

His murder came less than two years after the death of his fiancée, Anele “Nellie” Tembe, who died from injuries sustained when she fell from the 10th floor of the Pepperclub Hotel in Loop Street, Cape Town, in 2021. Her death sparked numerous questions, particularly after the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) declined to prosecute.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police tight-lipped on rapper AKA murder probe as father reveals plans for ‘dignified send-off’

Following Forbes’ murder, Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola called for the speedy arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators. 

Timeline of arrests 

“The strategy that we employed was that after these six, we began to look for parallel cases that they were involved in, and we began to arrest them for those cases and keep them in custody but [not] charge them on the main case that we are investigating,” Mkhwanazi said. 

“The reason for that is because we wanted to make sure that we get almost all the suspects — especially the organiser of the hit.”

Mkhwanazi said at least four of the six suspects were involved in parallel cases. 

The first arrest was made on 22 April 2023 and the second on 24 October. The third suspect was arrested on 14 December. 

“On 24 February 2024, after identifying the two suspects that we were looking for after chasing them the whole year, we found a house where they were hiding in Swaziland… In this case, we approached the NPA, an affidavit was prepared, and we submitted it through Interpol in order to request the authorities in Swaziland to help us catch these two. These two were arrested on Saturday morning [24 February], in Swaziland, for other cases including the Forbes case,” Mkhwanazi said.

A remaining suspect caught wind of the arrests and went on the run, Mkhwanazi said. The SAPS launched a manhunt for the final suspect until the early hours of 27 February, when the suspect’s lawyers approached the SAPS and told them the suspect would surrender. 

“We were hunting them and we have a warrant of arrest,” Mkhwanazi said. 

“From our investigation, it became clear that Mr Forbes was the main target. He is the one that was followed from the airport, he is the one that was followed at the hotel, he is the one that was spotted inside the restaurant and the plan was not to shoot him in the manner that they did. 

“They were going to shoot him in the vehicle, but because he stood longer outside greeting his friend, those hitmen did not want to wait, that’s why they came for him

“The second victim [Motsoane] it was by coincidence that he was shot. The second shooter was at quite a distance from him when he was shot, so we do believe that the plan was [to kill] Mr Forbes.”

There is a possibility that other suspects would be added to the list but, as it stood, Mkhwanazi said, there was a very solid case. 

The motive was not yet known, he said. 

“We know how much they each received how much they were paid, but we’re not going to divulge it here, because it’s part of the case.” DM

This article was updated at 12.50pm on Wednesday after police confirmed that a seventh suspect had been arrested.  Five of the suspects are due to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Jane Crankshaw says:

    They can find these guys but can’t find the perpetrator of De Ruyters poisoning – thinking arsenic was the same as asthma! I shake my head!

  • James Redpath says:

    Good work ..was it revenge for the girl ..falling out the window?

  • William Kelly says:

    Only took a year. And Cele claims it as victory? What a muppet. As for ordinary people, well, we’re on our own.

    • Sibonelo Mchunu says:

      Are you commenting about the case or your general disdain for Bheki Cele. The first arrest was April 2023, two months after the murder. They made two further arrests that same year. They are only reporting their progress now as they believe they have captured all directly involved in the planning and execution of the murder, and so there is little-to-no presumed prejudice to making the information public. So if you’re talking about the case, the police have done good work, in my opinion.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      You should watch more news from overseas. A man in Scotland was just found guilty of a murder he commited in 2005. The wheels of justice sometimes turn very slowly.

      Of course we should be critical when things take a long time, but murder cases are not always built in a couple of weeks, no matter what we see on TV from Vera or Inspector Morse.

  • Wayne Holt says:

    Amazing and Senzo? What about justice for him and his family?

  • Iam Fedup says:

    One small victory that took a year to solve, while an ocean of murders, including someone close to me, remain unsolved. And don’t even bother to try to talk to anyone in charge: they remain incommunicado because they don’t want to be embarrassed by their incompetence. Fools, every last one of them

  • Bonga Siyothula says:

    …they must expose any links they find that connects the father of that girl AKA supposedly killed and any of the suspects…if the father hired hitmen to take out AKA for allegedly killing her daughter, it would be understandable. It would still be illegal and reprehensible, but understandable….I just hope the trial does not turn into another Senzo Meyiwa murder trial drama….that trial has become meaningless…

  • Linton Mbatha says:

    We Thank the almighty. Hopefully the truth will come out in no time.

  • Eddie Maulson says:

    And the Cat In The Hat rushes in to make sure he polishes his pre-election marble by association. Good on the police for getting somewhere with the case but no thanks due to the Cat!

  • Les Thorpe says:

    I suppose we can now expect to wait another ten or more years for a conviction.

  • David McCormick says:

    Well done SAPS

  • Just Me says:

    Why do they put AKA’s case before that of his girlfriend’s murder?

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