Inconsistent statements on Ditebogo murder deepen case mystery

Arrested pair not yet linked to boy's shooting – NPA

Ditebogo Phalane
Ditebogo Phalane
Image: Supplied

The police and the NPA are at odds over the details of the four men arrested for the killing of Ditebogo Jr Phalane and their link to the crime. 

Following the appearance of two of the suspects in court in Tshwane yesterday, the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) issued inconsistent information regarding the suspects' link to the little boy's murder. 

Lumka Mahanjana, NPA's spokesperson, said the two suspects aged 29 and 30 only faced gun possession charges. However her counterpart, W/O Wendy Nkabi, spokesperson for the Hawks, said on top of the gun possession charges they also faced a murder charge related to Ditebogo. 

“They are currently linked to the murder of Ditebogo because during the arrest we seized a firearm that is alleged to have been the murder weapon,” said Nkabi outside the Atteridgeville magistrate’s court yesterday. 

Ditebogo was shot and killed earlier this month as he was running to welcome his father at their Soshanguve home. The father was arriving home just as the hijackers pounced.

His death caused public outrage with some people calling for harsher sentences for murderers. The incident also raised concerns about rampant crime in townships in Tshwane, especially in Soshanguve where a spate of high-profile murders has occurred recently.

Ditebogo was laid to rest last Friday, and in attendance were police minister Bheki Cele, police commissioner Fannie Masemola, EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, DA leader Solly Msimanga, among others.

At the time, two suspects had been arrested. 

On Monday, the Hawks said two more suspects were nabbed in Soshanguve and Atteridgeville for possession of an unlicensed firearm linked to the Ditebogo's murder. Their arrests were a result of information received from crime intelligence.

At the time, Nkabi said the police recovered two unlicensed firearms.

"[One of the firearms] is alleged to be the murder weapon used in the murder of Ditebogo, but that will be confirmed once the firearms have been sent for testing," said Nkabi then. 

Cele told eNCA on Tuesday that police were adamant they found the right suspects for Ditebogo's murder after they found the guns and a canopy belonging to Ditebogo's father's car.  

"Yes, indeed we have found two more of those criminals. There is one more outstanding suspect and we are still looking. The fact that we have found those things [guns and canopy] we are sure we have found the right people," said Cele. 

However, Mahanjana yesterday said the suspects were only arrested for gun and ammunition possession.

"We don’t want to delve into the police investigation but at this point, there is no link [to Ditebogo's murder]. These are still the early stages of the investigation. We are still waiting for the ballistic report to check if the firearm is linked to the murder of the five-year-old,” she said.

She added that when they appeared in court yesterday, accused number 2 disclosed that he has a pending case at the Ga-Rankuwa magistrate's court that he will attend on June 28, where he is facing charges of possession of a firearm, possession of ammunition, attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Ditebogo's family told Sowetan they were happy with the progress made in the case and that the police have been giving them regular updates.

“We are confident with how the matter is going based on how the whole investigation is going. Sadly, we have been asked not to share this information with the public ... but rest assured we are confident.

"For now, we don’t have a reaction in terms of what happened in court today [yesterday]. We are looking forward to their next court appearance,” said  family spokesperson Gift Makoti.

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