Gerrie Nel wants trial, not inquest, into Rwandan spy boss death

16 January 2019 - 13:48 By Nico Gous
Former Rwandan intelligence boss colonel Patrick Karegeya was murdered in his room in the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 31 2013.
Former Rwandan intelligence boss colonel Patrick Karegeya was murdered in his room in the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 31 2013.
Image: Alexander Joe/AFP

The delay in prosecuting the suspects and only starting a judicial inquest five years after the murder of a former Rwandan spy boss, shows there was a cover-up.

That is what advocate Gerrie Nel argued on behalf of the family of ex-Rwandan colonel Patrick Karegeya in the Randburg magistrate’s court in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

“This inquest now is a cover-up to disguise the inability or prohibition of the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) or the SA Police Service (SAPS) to deal with this particular assassination.”

Karegeya was strangled in his hotel room in the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, on December 31 2013.

AFP reported in 2014 that Karegeya was close to Rwandan president Paul Kagame for a long time. Karegeya was the head of external intelligence for around a decade before being demoted to army spokesperson. He was later arrested and jailed. He was stripped of his rank of colonel in 2006 and went into exile in 2007.

Nel wants the NPA and the court to stop the inquest and investigate it as a criminal matter.

He said the case dockets shows the delay is “inexplicable”.

“One is left to make the irresistible inference of political meddling or a prohibition to proficiently investigate the identified perpetrators,” Nel said in court documents.

Nel said the last witness statement was taken in April 2015. The lead investigator identified the suspects as four Rwandan citizens in a statement on January 8 2014, just over a week after the murder.

According to Nel, the lead investigator said in a statement that they left SA on January 1 2014.

Nel said: “The institution of an inquest must be an indication that an investigation has been completed. We are convinced that the investigating officer will have to admit that there is outstanding investigation to be done.”

State prosecutor Yusuf Baba said the director of public prosecutions had advised in a letter dated June 5 2018 that the NPA declines to prosecute.

“This court has no jurisdiction in making of that respect (instituting a criminal investigation) as the National Prosecuting Authority, as given by his powers of the National Prosecuting Act, has already made a decision.”

Speaking outside court, NPA spokesperson Phindi Mjonondwane denied the allegations of a cover-up or political meddling.

Karegeya's widow Leah now lives in the US. She attended Wednesday's hearing in Johannesburg.

The former colonel's nephew, David Batenga, now lives in SA and said on Tuesday that the family wants to find justice.

“We’ll keep pushing, so even if the verdict comes out and it's not what you [sic] want to hear, because some of us know the facts, and we hope that those facts will be heard by the right courts.”

The inquest resumes on Monday.


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