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‘I'll pride myself if I died changing people’s lives’: slain NW businessman

Gumbi had premonition about his imminent death

The Plató Coffee shop where businessman Ben Gumbi was executed on Wednesday.
The Plató Coffee shop where businessman Ben Gumbi was executed on Wednesday.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Eighteen days before North West businessman Ben Gumbi was executed, he and his business partners had started their bid to evict residents who had illegally occupied their 354-hectare piece of land reserved to build a R3,2bn smart city near Sun City Resort in North West.

According to his business partner, Jacob Ngakane, Gumbi started getting death threats after the project was announced formally to the community last year. The death threats intensified last week after Gumbi served an eviction notice for the land in Ledig.

Ngakane said Gumbi became worried about the safety of his parents that he decided to book them into the Sun City Resort for the weekend.

“Gumbi took his parents to Sun City. His father, who was celebrating his birthday on Saturday, is not well and Gumbi wanted to get him away from the threats he was receiving,” said Ngakane.

These threats would soon become a brutal reality as two gunmen were captured on CCTV approaching Gumbi who had been standing outside a coffee shop on Kock Road in Rustenburg on Wednesday morning. According to the video circulating on social media, the gunmen advanced towards Gumbi from the side before shooting him several times, killing him instantly.

murdered businessman Ben Gumbi.
murdered businessman Ben Gumbi.
Image: Supplied

Although authorities said the motive for Gumbi’s killing was unknown, Ngakane said his partner had premonition about his death days before he was murdered. He spoke about the threats and shared videos on social in which he said he’d rather die trying to change the lives of people living in rural areas.

“Definitely those houses will be destroyed. Whether you hate or like me, there's no material benefit in killing me. The development will go ahead whether Ben Gumbi is there or not...As for me, I will pride myself that I died for changing people’s lives,” Gumbi said in one of the videos he shot recently.

“Gumbi has been telling me about these threats and he also decided to make them public, and we even reported the threats to the police,” said the businessman’s partner.

Ngakane said he was not living in fear. “I’m not worried about my life because I have done nothing wrong. I have not stolen anything from anyone. There is no reason for people to kill us. Even if they do kill us, the project is now in the hands of government and it will go on,” said Ngakane.

He said he and Gumbi started the Bakubung Smart City Development after securing partnership with the local traditional authority. The development would comprise a shopping centre, a college, a hospital, hotel and sport facilities among other things. It is projected to employ more than 10,000 people. 

However, their plans were thwarted by people who allegedly started occupying the land illegally and erected homes on it. The piece of land has shacks and mansions on it.

Gumbi and Ngakane, under the Bakubukung Land Company, served the homeowners with a termination of occupation notice. “Our instructions are to demand that all unlawful occupiers of the property vacate the property within 30 days after receipt of this notice, remove all structures unlawfully constructed at the property,” read a letter from their lawyers, DupWest Inc, dated July 28. 

The Gumbis told Sowetan they were not ready to comment on the matter.

Ledig, near Sun City resort in North West, where a R3.2bn smart city is set to be built.
Ledig, near Sun City resort in North West, where a R3.2bn smart city is set to be built.
Image: Antonio Muchave

Meanwhile, it was business as usual at Plato Coffee yesterday where Gumbi was gunned down; however, some of the workers were given a day off to deal with their trauma. 

When Gumbi was being shot, one of the bullets struck the wall of the café, leaving a hole which was sealed yesterday when Sowetan visited the venue. The café’s employees described Gumbi as a friendly customer who frequented the establishment, which is opposite his fire equipment business.

Entrepreneur Burth Theunissen, whose business is next to Gumbi’s, described him as a diligent entrepreneur who did his best to achieve his goals.

Police in the province said they know the identity of the suspects who are currently on the run. 

“Investigations into the matter are underway. We would like to urge members of the community who are using various social media platforms to share pictures and video clips purported to be those of the suspects, to refrain from doing that as this has the potential to jeopardise the investigation.

“The police request anyone who may have information that can assist in the investigation to contact the investigating officer, Lt-Col Patrick Murunwa, at 082-772-5591,” said police spokesperson Brig Sabata Mokgwabone.

Mokgwari Monnakgotla, the uncle of the Bakubung chief Mphuphuthe Monnakgotla, said the community took a resolution in 2016 where about 84 people staying on the land were given leases. He said some people in Mphuphuthe’s office started selling off pieces of land to more residents, going against the community resolution.

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