Slain taxi boss Bongani Mkhize saw death coming. It was on four wheels, right behind him. And he tried desperately to get away.
Driving his beloved Lexus IS 250 sedan, a dividend of his work in the taxi industry, Mkhize saw men he called angels of death and knew they were looking for him.
He put his foot down, trying to get away.
In his desperation to stay alive, he went through red traffic lights, miraculously escaping a crash.
His “angels of death”, aka the Cato Manor Unit, were on his tail. And as Mkhize broke the law in an attempt to stay alive, this action was captured on cameras set up to catch traffic offenders, and whose pictures now form the State’s case.
A distance from the chase, caught on camera, the unit allegedly caught up with Mkhize and pumped bullets into him.
Mkhize, chairman of the violence-ridden KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association, died on February 3, 2009. The evidence to be led by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, which has uncovered what it believes is damning evidence against the Cato Manor Unit, directly contradicts the official version that members of the unit had been informed where Mkhize was and they confronted him.
The directorate is expected to claim in court that after the killing of Mkhize, members of the unit planted a firearm in his vehicle to justify their actions.
In October 2008, Mkhize secured an extraordinary Durban High Court interdict, alleging police wanted to kill him and calling on the State to prevent them from doing so.
He had been told the police suspected him of masterminding the death of top cop Superintendent Zethembe Chonco.
Chonco was a co-ordinator dealing with taxi violence killings between KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association and Stanger Taxi Association.
Mkhize had also been in the process of securing a second interdict amid accusations that he was involved in the killing of traditional leader Mbongeleni Zondi, who had close links to President Jacob Zuma, earlier in the year.
His claim was that fellow taxi bosses whose names had been on a hit list with his had died at the hands of the Cato Manor Unit and he knew that he was next.
Mkhize’s was a desperate move, never heard of before in SA legal history.
He wanted to be arrested and to have an opportunity to go to court and fight the charges against him. A few days later, while driving on Durban’s Umgeni Road, his fears became reality.
This is, at least, what the directorate wants the courts to believe.
Members of the unit are expected to counter each claim by the directorate in court and present their own version.
The directorate alleges in an indictment filed in the Durban High Court this week, that the police officers who killed Mkhize then placed a 9mm Parabellum Calibre Vektor Model Z88 semi-automatic pistol with obliterated serial numbers next to him.
They also allegedly stole two of his cellphones.
Mkhize’s daughter Zamambo told the Tribune tearfully earlier this year how she and her mother drove into the scene of Mkhize’s death.
She was in the car with her mother and brother when they thought they had come across an accident in front of them. It was only when they got closer that they realised it was Mkhize’s Lexus on the side of the road.
“I ran towards the car, but the police prevented us from seeing him. Even after they realised we were family, they were rude, harsh and heartless. They told us to go away,” said Zamambo.
She realised her father had not been in a car accident, but had been shot.
Mkhize’s wife of 22 years, Fakazile, recounted how one policeman wearing a balaclava allegedly tormented her, saying her husband had “died for his deeds”.
“I told them they should have arrested him if they suspected something,” she recalled.
“I asked them if they were refusing to let us see his body because they had already placed the gun in his hand so they could claim he fired at them first, like they claimed with all of the six victims,” said Fakazile.
Mkhize’s family’s hopes for justice were raised in March when they were visited by then acting police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi.
The family has launched a R2.3 million lawsuit against the police, saying Mkhize’s death was “wrongful and unlawful”.
The money was calculated on support the family would have received if Mkhize hadn’t been killed.