Russel Morena

Russel Morena

A key witness in the trial of two allegedly corrupt Booysens policemen has been shot dead.

Lindiwe Mthembu, 37, was expected to testify against the policemen in the Johannesburg magistrates' court today. She was killed on Thursday night.

Another woman who is to testify in the same case was forced into hiding after she was threatened on Friday. She received a call from an unknown man who warned her against testifying.

Johannesburg police have confirmed the incidents.

Mthembu was killed on the stairs of the block of flats where she lived.

Police said yesterday that Mthembu was walking to the 10th floor of the building on Thursday evening when she was shot several times.

Captain Bheki Mavundla said police were investigating the murder.

Mthembu, a member of a committee of flat dwellers fighting crime, theft and corruption, was supposed to give evidence against inspectors Sean Thwala and Telo Mota.

Thwala and Mota face charges of corruption, theft, fraud, extortion, intimidation and defeating the ends of justice, said Superintendent Gregory Beck of the Booysens police.

The two men were arrested in September 2006 after the police received complaints about policemen extorting money from tenants in several buildings in Johannesburg and selling impounded cars.

A tenant, who did not want to be named, said: "I heard gunshots at about 6pm. When I went outside to check, people were screaming between the 7th and 8th floors."

Security guards at the building said they had not noticed anything suspicious.

"The gunman may have been seen by some tenants in the building. There are always people walking up and down the stairs because the lifts are not working. Maybe they are afraid to talk," said another tenant.

Mthembu's husband, Petros, who was at church at the time of the shooting, was shocked to find his wife's bloody body four hours after the shooting.

"The police only came to collect her body at 10.30pm," he said.

Two other witnesses have since gone into hiding in fear of their safety after receiving death threats on Friday, said Petros.

"The police will get to the bottom of this. We have more witnesses who are willing to testify against the two cops," Superintendent Beck said.