Conflicting accounts of hijacker’s crime sprees

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CONFLICTING and sketchy police accounts of the hijackings and associated crimes committed by Vivi Mthembu, 23, and Sphelele Shezi, 19, indicate that the police might have not been in touch with what was actually going on out there.

While it is not in doubt, even among Mthembu family members, that the two were involved in many hijackings – “too many to count” said investigating officer, Sergeant Lindani Mhlongo – exactly what crimes they committed is unclear. As they were never brought before a court, not many people besides other accomplices will never know.

At the time the two were shot and killed by the police on January 6 2011, it was reported in the media that Mthembu and Shezi had been linked to 21 cases of hijackings and armed robberies.

Police said Mthembu and Shezi had been running a hijacking syndicate that targeted women dropping off children at schools and crèches in Pinetown.

In a subsequent interview with Roving Reporters, the provincial police spokesman at the time, Colonel Vincent Mdunge, was unable to provide details of these cases or any contact details of any victims. He said these cases were still under investigation. He did however, say that the day before two were killed, the pair had shot a man in the neck outside his home in Caversham Road, Pinetown, before taking his VW Polo. The victim survived and car was recovered by the police, said Mdunge.

Mhlongo also talked of the shooting of a 72-year-old man in Sydenham two months earlier allegedly involving Mthembu and Shezi. But again, neither Mdunge or Mhlongo were unable to put Roving Reporters in touch with the victims of Caversham Road hijacking or the Syndenham shooting.

In a subsequent formal query, SAPS provincial communications were asked to provide details of all the cases that Mthembu and Shezi had allegedly been linked to, including case numbers, names of victims, dates and places of these crimes. No information was forthcoming for two weeks.

Queries were finally referred to a SAPS Pinetown spokesman, Warrant Officer Solomon Mbele.

Mbele provided one case number – the much publicised murder of a Pinetown schoolboy, Llewellyn Bond in late October 2010.  When it was pointed out that four other suspects had been arrested and charged for the Bond murder, Mbele said these suspects had been part of “Vivi’s gang”.

Mbele said other cases linked to the two were out of the Pinetown jurisdiction, meaning he could not provide details.

We then contacted a woman, Mpume Shezi, 40, who was said by Mhlongo to have been hijacked by Mthembu and Shezi. It turned out that this hijacking occurred on January 14 – eight days after Shezi and Mthembu had been killed. The car was recovered the next day.

“The one boy they caught was called Siboniso who went by the nickname, Banana,” said Mpume Shezi. She said she learned from the police that the car had been hijacked to arrange an appropriate “send off” for a hijacker (Vivi Mthembu) who was to buried that that weekend. A ‘send off’ refers to township gangsters’ tradition of taking hijacked cars to funerals of slain colleagues. The cars are taken for a spin around the graveyard parking lot or sometimesaround the area where the dead hijacker lived.

At the scene of the stakeout where Mthembu and Shezi were killed, Mhlongo provided a hand written list of 18 case numbers which he said were linked to the two. The list included 14 cases of hijacking, one case of murder, two cases of attempted murder and one house robbery. The crimes took place in various areas around Durban including Chatsworth, Sydenham, Pinetown, Marianhill and Hillcrest.

Further correspondence was sent to SAPS Provincial Communications asking for further details on these cases, including names, dates and places. No further information was ever provided.