‘Working with the police, you have to always watch your back’
He takes his gun with him to fetch the newspaper every morning.
He has it beside him when he takes a bath in the evening.
He practises at a police shooting range at least once a week.
He calls his .38 special, his wife.
Meet sharp-shooter and police reservist, Constable Grant Ngubane. For the students working on this case study, the Tale of Two Hijackers, meeting Ngubane was an eye-opener.
In all the interviews conducted Sergeant Lindani Mhlongo – the cop who hunted down Vivi Mthembu and Sphelele Shezi – Ngubane was there, mostly a silent and watchful observer.
But now and then, he spoke out, sharing his own experiences.
“I’ve killed more criminals than I can count on my hands,” Ngubane said in the first interview with Roving Reporters at the Durban University of Technology.
In an earlier meeting at the head office of SAPS Provincial Communications, Ngubane had bemoaned the fact that the police had to first get warrants of arrest before interrogating someone.
Weeks later, at the scene where Mthembu and Shezi were killed earlier this year, Ngubane complained that he had “missed the action”.
After Mhlongo described what had happened that day, Ngubane got chatting to the students again, this time talking about how crooked cops were his worst nightmare.
“Police are not all the same. There are good police and there are bad police,” said Ngubane.
“You see, some other policemen, they are corrupt. You will see criminals carrying a police firearm. When you are squeezing him or giving some tube or something,” he will say: ‘No, I got this firearm from so and so, and mention a policeman’s name,” said Ngubane.
“There is one cop staying in KwaDabeka, Clermont. This fucking bastard, he’s the one who’s moving with the crooks. We’ve given him a warning,” said Ngubane. “That’s why I can’t work with someone if I don’t trust him. That’s why I prefer to work with this man,” said Ngubane, referring to Mhlongo.
“I know when I am facing this side, this man is covering my back. If he is facing this side, I am covering his back. And if anything happens, I will not leave him.”
“And we are not drinking. We’re not smoking. We live 100 percent clean. So if there’s a function and people are drinking, you won’t see us there. We are different people. We don’t trust nobody,” said Ngubane. “That’s why they say we are not easy targets. We are hard targets. So if you want to kill this ou, (Mhlongo) you must know you are not finished – a dead man, as you will then have to dela with me.”
At the stake out scene, both Ngubane and Mhlongo encouraged the students to attend the funeral of a well-known gangster, Boyzie Mkhize, who had been killed by the police earlier that week.
Newspaper reports said that Mkhize and two others, Jabulani Bhengu and Dumi Mgobhozi, had been trailing a business man carrying substantial cash with a view to robbing him. They were intercepted by the police in Umhlanga.
The police said they were shot at, and had fired back, killing the three men.
Pictures in the press showed Mkhize dead in a dustbin, head down, almost as if cowering at the time he was killed.
Ngubane described what had led to the drama that day.
“You see, one of the ous who died there at Umhlanga (Ngubane called him Mje) was like a leader, one of the big fish there in Clermont. He was in charge, like. If you want five cars today, he will send you and you and you, and say: ‘Go check Pinetown. Go check Kloof. Go check this way. Go check that way’. He was a main man that one.”
“So, now Mje, he got information that this larney (businessman) was going to get big money in cash, so Mje said: ‘Let’s go to rob this ou. Then one guy moving with them changed his mind, and told the cops, the organised crime ous, the whole story.”
“So now organised crime, they went there. They were waiting for them. The rest is history,” said Ngubane.
Ngubane said Mthembu and Shezi had not moved with Boyzie Mkhize or the others.
“No, Vivi and Sphelele were not reporting to him. They were arranging their own thing, there with other laaitjies (youngsters) from Clermont,” said Ngubane.
“It’s like someone will say: ‘I’ve got a Polo, but my Polo engine is fucked up, so I want a new one for parts. They will then tell Vivi and his crew will go and hijack the car. Maybe they will get R2000 or R3000,” said Ngubane.
Earlier Mhlongo had told the students that some cars hijacked by Mthembu’s crew had been sold outside the country, indicating that they had connections within a larger syndicate.
“Yes, some cars were going out, Mozambique, Swaziland. Who is the leader in Swaziland? We do not know yet,” said Mhlongo.
On the fact that in killing Mthembu and Shezi at the stakeout, police might have lost out on nailing a bigger fish, Mthembu just shrugged.
But he did say police were now expecting a sharp decrease in hijackings in the upper Durban area.
But that next weekend, at least one car was allegedly hijacked to give Mthembu a “good send off” at his funeral. Mhlongo said this was a car belonging to Mpume Shezi who had been hijacked outside a friend’s house in Glen Ashley.
“It was Vivi’s mates, Sbo and Bo, who pulled that off. We’ve got one of them, Sbo, in custody
again. We want to link him to cases. I must go there now. The lawyer is there. They want to
release him, but I am saying he must not go out today, because if he goes out, he’s going to go
out and hijack another car tonight for Mje’s funeral tomorrow.”
“You must go to the funeral.” he urged the students. “You can just stand and look. There will be plenty of people there, some even coming from Johannesburg. You will hear my name often, people saying, ‘Venter did this. Venter killed this ou. They’ll be shooting off guns, and hey, feel sorry for Durban tonight. Guys will be hijacking cars like nothing, one way.”