Super sleuth Magwaza has criminals on the back foot

Detective Ngoako Magwaza is gradually carving out a reputation of a crack crime investigator in crime-ridden East Rand.

Magwaza is aware about the dangers that come with the territory of constantly pursuing hardcore criminals, but he soldiers on putting crooks and murderers behind bars.

He tells Sowetan in an interview that he sometimes leaves home "not knowing whether I will make it back home".

But the love of serving the communities of Benoni and surrounds keeps him going.

"I love my job," he stresses.

"It fulfills me to see criminals being put away behind bars and seeing families and victims getting closure," Magwaza said.

The 41-year-old officer is based at Putfontein police station in Benoni. His most recent achievement is a double life sentence conviction for cold-blooded murderer Moses Mahlangu, who was arrested last year for the double murder of his girlfriend and her cousin.

Moloko Mosena, 26, who was pregnant and her cousin Nthabiseng Mosena, 24, were found dead in November last year in a shack owned by Charles Mncayi in Mayfield, near Daveyton.

In a strange twist, it also emerged that Mahlangu was Mncayi's childhood friend and also dated one of his victims, Nthabiseng, while Mncayi dated Moloko.

After the killings, Mahlangu, who was sentenced on July 6, fled to the small town of Reitz in Free State before the gritty Magwaza pounced.

Mahlangu had already become the prime suspect for the double murder before his arrest. Magwaza says he traced Mahlangu through cellphone contacts he had in Free State.

"I discovered that Mahlangu, after fleeing the Benoni area, fled to Reitz in the Free State.

"We found him hiding at his other girlfriend's house."

Mahlangu's life sentence was delivered in the Benoni regional court after he was convicted on two counts of murder before he was slapped with another 15-year jail term on count 2.

Magwaza talks about how he managed to "secure another conviction in February this year against a man who had a stabbed a bouncer at a tavern in one of the informal settlements" in the area where he lives.

"I currently also have four murder cases on the court roll that I'm working hard on to ensure that families are afforded justice," he says.

"I am also preparing to go and testify for the state in the double murder of the mother and son from Vosloorus who were found stabbed to death in the Zesfontein plots last month," he says.

Noqayisa Tshwane and her son Jefferson Johnson were killed when they went to a mechanic in the area to enquire about a truck he was fixing.

It has been a busy season for Magwaza as he has also been investigating the murder cases of two women whose bodies were found stashed under the beds of their boyfriends in Gabon and Maphupheni informal settlements, near Etwatwa, a township bordering Daveyton.

The father of six says it takes passion and determination to be a crime investigator.

"It fulfills me to see criminals being put away behind bars and seeing families and victims getting closure."

Becoming a police officer was Magwaza's childhood dream when growing up in Mahwereleng, Mokopane, in Limpopo. He joined the police service in 2004.

"I always put myself in the shoes of the victims and their families. In that way I am able to take attention to every detail and do thorough investigation to ensure that they get justice in the end of court cases."

"I began working at the services centre, then moved to crime prevention until I became a qualified field trainer where I trained newly recruited officers on policing."

He then moved to communications office for a few years before moving to the drug unit before he was appointed a detective.

"I enjoy investigating cases and I grow passionate about it every day."

The detective tells Sowetan that to distress from his stressful job, he plays soccer.

"I have managed to gather a soccer team of middle-aged men in the communities around Mayfield, Gabon, Putfontein, Mogoba, Mina Nawe and around the plots.

"These men work with me in combating gender-based violence (GBV) and are also involved crime-awareness campaigns in the area.

"We also work as a men's forum and advice young boys on behaviour and character development to fight against crime, especially GBV that has become a big challenge across all communities."

Magwaza says he has grown to understand that if he and other investigating officers within the SAPS did thorough investigations they would fight crime and help victims to have stronger arguments in courts.

"I don't sleep until I get justice in all my cases and if I do my job well I serve my country diligently and all civilians will see that police do work," he stresses, adding that he works hard to ensure that the SAPS badge is respected by fellow officers and the society at large.

"I would like the public to trust and have confidence in us as the men and women in blue through our work so that our values and integrity stand up. We serve and protect, and that is our responsibility."

Magwaza works in one of the crime capitals of Gauteng, if not the country at large. Horrific murders, rape, robbery and hijackings are recorded in great numbers every weekend.

Putfontein, the smallholdings area near Daveyton, has more than six informal settlements around it. The residents in these settlement interact with Daveyton on a regular basis, through family ties, associates or for shopping and informal business.

They are all dependent on the Putfontein police station which is small and one of the under-resourced police stations in the country.

Its size is due to the fact that the station was established to serve a smaller community of plot owners, long before the mushrooming of informal settlements nearby. There are new formal residential areas nearby, including Chief Luthuli Park.

Asked how he manages to rise above these challenges, Magwaza says: "Passion and the love for what I do have made me realise that I need to do what you have to do regardless of the situation you work under. I hope one day the government will refurbish or even build another police station in this area so we can work better and keep the fight against crime going."

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