'ATM bomber is unstable'

EMPTY HELL: Police Inspectgor Joey Feevan inspects a bobed ATM. 16/08/07. © Unknown.
EMPTY HELL: Police Inspectgor Joey Feevan inspects a bobed ATM. 16/08/07. © Unknown.

Vusi Ndlovu

Vusi Ndlovu

The man who claims to be behind the spate of ATM bombings in South Africa is so harmless "he would not hurt a fly", say close family members.

But police picked him up for questioning yesterday and he is being held in custody. The embarrassed family of Plaatjie Mashego said the bricklayer was "mentally unstable".

Mashego recently claimed to be leader of a group that has been bombing ATMs to highlight the plight of the unemployed.

Mashego, 41, of Vosloorus on the East Rand, said his Malamulela Social Movement of the Unemployed was behind the string of ATM bombings.

He claimed that members of his organisation had been trained by former Umkhonto weSizwe operatives at a secret camp in Swaziland.

The Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans' Association denied any knowledge of Mashego or his organisation.

Yesterday Mashego's father, Cornelius , said his son "had been mentally unstable from a very young age".

"We Africans know that this is the time of the year when plants begin to blossom and the condition of people with mental illnesses worsen," he said.

"He gets violent and says things that cannot don't make sense. The problem is that he comes across as very eloquent and convincing."

He said his son, a law graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, chooses a nomadic life when his condition worsens.

Phuti Setati, a director in the national office of the SAPS, yesterday said no charges had been laid against Mashego.

"We are trying to determine if he was involved in any crime so we can draw up a correct charge. We have 48 hours in which to do that. If we can link him to any crimes, he will appear in court. If not, we will have to release him," Setati said.