Hawks, NPA rubbish Phala Phala accused's allegations

Aron Hyman Reporter
Urbanus Lomboleni Shaumbwako was arrested allegedly in possession of 12 Namibian police firearms, their serial numbers filed off, after a high-speed chase with police in 2020.
Urbanus Lomboleni Shaumbwako was arrested allegedly in possession of 12 Namibian police firearms, their serial numbers filed off, after a high-speed chase with police in 2020.
Image: Supplied

The Hawks and National Prosecuting Authority have rubbished claims made by alleged Phala Phala burglar Urbanus Shaumbwako’s lawyer Reon Heckrath in the Cape Town regional court on Thursday.

Heckrath had indicated in Shaumbwako's last appearance on July 17 that he intended to plead guilty to possession of 12 Namibian police firearms.

Instead Heckrath, in allegations against the Hawks and NPA, indicated that the firearms arrest formed part of a "larger cover-up" over the theft of the president’s money.

Ramaphosa was grilled in parliament on Tuesday over the alleged cover-up of $4m (R69.29m) stolen from his Phala Phala game farm in Limpopo.

The origins of the money, the exact amount stolen, who was involved, why a burglary case was never opened and investigated, and whether a cover-up involving state resources and the kidnapping and torture of Shaumbwako and his Namibian-SA compatriots occurred remain unknown after Ramaphosa dodged questions with the help of the ANC caucus.

But Hawks investigators have reportedly been hard at work trying to verify the statement made by former spy boss Arthur Fraser in an affidavit to the police on June 1.

According to Heckrath, on June 27 Hawks visited Urbanus’s Pollsmoor prison cell to find out what he knew about the Phala Phala matter, allegedly telling him that he was named in Fraser's affidavit.

Heckrath said the Hawks told his client that he was a possible witness in the case and that they had questions regarding Fraser’s statement and whether he could “correct” the statement according to what really transpired at the robbery.

Among Heckrath’s allegations was that the Hawks showed Shaumbwako a statement made by Fraser in which he said that Shaumbwako was in Cape Town at the time of the robbery according to cellphone data, which Fraser had allegedly seen.

The information was not contained in Fraser’s original statement to the police in which he said Shaumbwako was at the scene of the robbery on February 9 2020.

It was, however, information discovered by TimesLIVE Investigations and reported on after Shaumbwako’s last court appearance on July 19 this year.

Hawks national spokesperson Brig Thandi Mbambo rubbished Heckrath’s claims.

“The Hawks took note of the statement made today during the court appearance of Urbanus Shaumbwako. We deny insinuations made by the lawyer and, if need be, the Hawks will testify in court to set the record straight,” she said.

Asked whether Heckrath could share a copy of Fraser’s statement he said the Hawks showed his client, he told TimesLIVE he did not have a copy of the alleged new affidavit.

Fraser’s legal representative Eric Mabuza told TimesLIVE he would not comment when asked whether his client had deposed a new affidavit.

On July 19, which was when the trial was due to start, Heckrath told the court he would not proceed with the trial but was instead going to opt for a plea and sentencing agreement.

The prosecution insisted that Heckrath must present his plea and sentencing agreement well ahead of the next court date after complaining the case was being delayed by the defence, which had on previous occasions opted for plea and sentencing agreements only to renege at the last moment.

On Thursday, this tactic was seemingly again used when Heckrath failed to hand over documents as ordered by the court before the appearance.

The NPA also rubbished Heckrath’s allegations, especially that it was the state which had solicited a plea and sentencing agreement from him.

According to NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila, the state did not receive a plea and sentencing agreement from Heckrath before Thursday's proceedings. 

According to Heckrath, the state had told prosecutors to “shut him up”, however this was also dismissed by the NPA.

“The matter was not on the roll for trial. It was for plea negotiations. Therefore any prosecutor could deal with the matter. It is also in the NPA’s discretion who or which prosecutor they assign a matter to,” said Ntabazalila.

“The state informed the court that it never requested the defence to bring a plea and sentence agreement. The record reflects that it was the defence who indicated on the last appearance that they wanted to bring a plea and sentence agreement,” he said.

“The state did not approach the defence with a plea and sentencing agreement,” the prosecutor told the court.

She said the state was ready for trial as it had been at the earlier court appearance.

The case was postponed to September 30 for Heckrath to bring an application for the court to order the correctional services department to move his client to a secure section  in Pollsmoor prison.

This is after he told the court his client’s close friend and fellow alleged Phala Phala burglar Immanuela David was shot in Johannesburg few weeks ago.

SowetanLIVE's sister publication TimesLIVE Investigations contacted a close friend of David's this week, who said he was not shot and was unharmed and in hiding.  

A trial date has been set down for December 8 and 9 and Heckrath said the defence would call six witnesses including fellow Phala Phala accused Erki Shikongo.

Shaumbwako was arrested while driving Shikongo’s VW Polo in October 2020.

Shikongo previously told TimesLIVE he was in Namibia at the time of Shaumbwako’s arrest, that the two lived together in Table View and regularly drove each other’s cars, four of which stood in the driveway of their flat on any given day.