Death probe into Mdluli on

Inquest told of intimidation of witnesses in police investigation into the death of Mduli's love rival

AN INQUEST court heard yesterday how witnesses were intimidated and dockets disappeared after an East Rand man was allegedly shot while in police custody.

Seven witnesses are currently in the police protection programme.

The inquest, sitting in the Boksburg Magistrate's Court, is hearing evidence to help it determine how a Vosloorus resident, Oupa Ramogibe, died 13 years ago.

Last year national police intelligence boss Richard Mdluli and three other police officers were finally arrested for Ramogibe's murder.

Mdluli is believed to be president Jacob Zuma's man.

Last year Mdluli gave Zuma a secret document in which he accused Human Settlement Minister Tokyo Sexwale, KwaZulu-Natal Premier Zweli Mkhize and now suspended national police commissioner Bheki Cele of plotting to overthrow the president.

In February this year charges of murder, attempted murder, intimidation, three of kidnapping, two counts of assault and conspiracy to commit murder, were provisionally withdrawn against Mdluli, Colonel Nkosana Ximba, Lieutenant-Colonel Mthembeni Mtunzi and Warrant Officer Samuel Dlomo.

At the inquest yesterday senior police officer Colonel Kobus Roelofse told about allegations of how Mdluli and his friends were involved in a string of crimes, including kidnappings and assaults.

At the time of his death Ramogibe was married to Tshidi Buthelezi, who had a child with Mdluli. He was attacked by unknown people on December 23 1998 but survived. He was apparently driving a car belonging to Ximba, one of the policemen arrested for his death. Ramogibe was killed two months later in February 1999 while pointing out that scene to Dlomo, another of the police officers arrested for his death.

Roelofse also testified that Buthelezi was kidnapped and assaulted, allegedly by Mdluli, Ximba and Mtunzi - trying to force her to end her relationship with Ramogibe.

The three were all stationed at the Vosloorus detective branch. Mdluli was the detective commander.

"Dlomo in his affidavit claimed that on February 17 1999 he was in the company of Ramogibe. The deceased was pointing out where he was ambushed by unknown armed men.

"He claimed that they were approached by two armed men, who took his service pistol. The men ordered him to lie down and he claimed that he later heard gunshots being fired. He stood up and fled to call for assistance," Roelofse said.

He testified that Buthelezi had a child with Mdluli before she met Ramogibe in 1997.

Ramogibe and Buthelezi later got married on July 22 1998 in Boksburg. Their witnesses were Alice Manana and Sibongile Langa.

Between August and October 1998, Mdluli, Ximba and Mtunzi would visit the two lovers' families to demand that the two end their relationship.

Ramogibe and Buthelezi later fled to Orange Farm, fearing the policemen. But, the policemen managed to track them by forcibly taking Manana to reveal where the two were hiding.

The two lovers were forcibly taken to Vosloorus police station, where Mdluli, Ximba and Mtunzi assaulted them.

Manana later laid charges of kidnapping and assault at the Dawn Park police station. She again laid another charge of attempted murder after she was attacked and wounded at her house.

The two separate cases were never investigated and dockets were closed.

A week before Ramogibe was killed Dlomo closed the case of attempted murder opened earlier, claiming he could not locate him.

He claimed he could not trace Ramogibe though he continued to visit his family.

Mdluli's lawyer, Ike Motloung, told the court he did not have full instructions from his client.

Motloung said Mdluli had filed for financial assistance for the second time after the first one was declined by General Cele.

"We are still awaiting the results of the appeal. In a week or two, finality would be reached regarding financial assistance," said Motloung.

Magistrate J Viviers is presiding.