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Soweto's top cop, Inspector Manete, has a predator's instinct

By unknown | Nov 12, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

It's 5.45am as the car comes to a halt outside a house in Dobsonville. Soweto is rubbing cobwebs off its face and preparing to wake up to face yet another day.

Three minutes later a tall, suited man with the physique of a prize-fighter emerges from a face-brick house, the kind that is modest, but for some unexplained reason, is called a "big house" in the townships.

His shoulders are broad. You also get a sense that if you strip him of his clothes, you will be rewarded with the body of a god - a fine specimen.

The rippling muscles, wrapped in a peach-striped designer suit, a matching shirt tied in with a maroon Ivy League tie, have paid big-time for this super cop, Inspector Amos Manete.

If in doubt, ask the five Naledi township boys on trial for the rape and cruel murder of Thato Radebe, the 14-year-old schoolgirl who was gang-raped and stoned to death in Emndeni, Soweto, last year.

Thato's murder was so brutal and evil in execution that it broke the heart of a crime-numbed nation.

Her tragic end moved columnist Justice Malala to write in this very newspaper and this very page: "If you believe in God, I ask you to pray for the soul of Thato Radebe. This child, this flower still blooming, was brutally murdered two weeks ago. Her body was found in an open veld in Emndeni by a passer-by."

Sick to the pit of his stomach, he went on:

"There were bottles, condoms and sticks around her lifeless body. She had not just been murdered, she had been raped and brutalised in unimaginable ways."

The murder also riled the man who has become known as The People's Cop.

He took the murder personally. As a cop in the area, this was a personal affront. He wanted to nail the killers, because just imagining the pain inflicted on one so young before she was killed made his blood boil.

At the crime scene, he surveyed the gathered crowd like a landowner would each stalk of his grain.

One young man in the crowd avoided his gaze. He trained his eyes on the hard ground.

Manete's killer instinct kicked in. His hunches had never let him down. That was not going to change now. He pounced on the 18-year-old.

But his redemption was never incomplete. He had to nail the rest. He worked extra hours. He worked nights and he worked weekends.

One night he lay tossing in his bed, sweating, thinking .

As the bedside clock struck 1am, he slipped out of the blankets and said a little prayer.

"I'm going to work," he told his concerned wife. "I'm gonna nail Thato's killers."

"Take care," his wife, who is also a cop, replied with a heavy heart.

What happened after that was pure theatre, according to the inspector.

Using his own car, he drove straight to a suspect's house in the dead of night.

Alone and without backup, he sprinted around the house with the speed of an athlete, knocking on doors and windows as he circled the house, all the while screaming: POLICE! POLICE!

"I wanted to create the impression that the house was surrounded by an entire barracks."

It paid off. He got his man. Safely cuffed and ensconsed in his car, Manete took him to the third suspect, where the one-man theatre was restaged for a sleeping audience. Soweto counted sheep.

When Manete was still peddling insurance for Metropolitan, Naledi police station was said to be dysfunctional, I'm told. But that's something he's unwilling to confirm.

"I wasn't there at the time."

Threatening someone with the law, they said, thugs would wonder where you came from.


Back at the house, the clock ticks 6am. Twin brothers aged 17 in their school uniforms emerge from the house, obediently greet us and then hurry down the street clutching their school bags. These are two of Manete's three boys.

6.05am. A light complexioned, buxom lady emerges from the house, warmly greets us, gets into her car and waits.

6.07am. The scourge of Soweto's criminals makes an appearance. A wave at us and a hurried step to the wife. Her window is wound down and they kiss.

No great shakes? Wait.

We race through the township in a two-car convoy.

6.15am. We are at the parking lot of the Naledi police station.

Manete whips out his cellphone. Makes a call.

"She's still stuck in traffic." He's talking about his wife.

He transfers a zillion files from his car to his small office and punches on the computer. It spews out horror stories of the last 12 hours since he left for home yesterday.

6.30am. He calls the wife again. A smile dances on his lips.

The wife arrived safely at work, at some police station between Soweto and town.

A family man to the hilt. A people's cop to boot.

Manete was born on June 4, 1960 in Tsaulu in Venda. He came to Soweto in October 1986 armed with a dream and an unwavering belief in his Maker.


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