On the run at gogo’s house: R4m theft suspect Bathobile Mlangeni had no cash, lived quietly

The 82-year-old family friend did not know she was harbouring wanted suspect

17 January 2022 - 07:46
By Tankiso Makhetha
Bathobile Mlangeni appeared in the Alexandra magistrate's court on January 14 2022.
Image: Catherine White Bathobile Mlangeni appeared in the Alexandra magistrate's court on January 14 2022.

A grey-haired Vangille Dlamini sat quietly outside her home in Zola, Soweto, and contemplated how her caretaker was arrested in her yard two weeks ago.

For three months, the 82-year-old was none the wiser that she had been harbouring one of the most wanted suspects in SA.

Bathobile Mlangeni, the security guard who was on the run from authorities after she allegedly strolled out of the Mall of Africa with R4m stuffed in black bags, had been living with Dlamini in her Soweto home since September 2021.

“I had never heard about what she allegedly did. I did not know police were looking for her,” said Dlamini.

She was pleased to have Mlangeni move in with her as she lived alone.

“I was happy about that. I don’t live with anyone and it was a relief to have a child around the house who could help me by going to the store for me and help me with chores,” she said.

Dlamini told TimesLIVE she and Mlangeni’s late grandmother were friends and she had known her since she was a baby.

On a rainy afternoon on January 6, Dlamini said she was stirred from her rest when Mlangeni knocked on her door.

“Nathi had just walked out of the house when she returned a few moments later and knocked on the door. I opened and found Nathi surrounded by a lot of police officers. I was confused and asked them what they wanted. They ignored my question and asked me where Nathi kept the money,” said Dlamini.

She said police officers searched her house before they were satisfied the missing cash was not kept in her home.

“After they were done they asked Nathi if she had told me why she was being arrested. She sobbed and said no. I did not want to hear anything so I hugged her and they took her away. I asked her family what was happening but they did not want to give me answers.”

Asked about Mlangeni's demeanour during her stay with her, Dlamini responded: “She was a lovely child. She was always on my side and did everything I asked. We shared everything together while she was here.

“She did not live lavishly She barely had any clothes and she would ask me for R5 or R10 so she could buy airtime.”

Neighbours said they were shocked when they learned Mlangeni had been living under their noses.

A neighbour who asked not to be named said he did not know much about her because she was a loner.

“She was quiet and kept to herself. I would sometimes see her standing outside and having a smoke. Most of the time it seemed she was deep in thought.”

Another neighbour said Mlangeni did not display extravagance during her stay in their community.

“I would never say she was a slay queen or anything of the sort. She did not have any friends. She did not go to the local tavern. She was always alone.”

Police spokesperson Lt-Col Mavela Masondo said Mlangeni is expected to appear in the Alexandra magistrate’s court on Monday where her bail application is expected to be heard.

She is charged with the audacious theft at the Mall of Africa in July 2019, when she allegedly cut open two bulk cash bags before transferring the money into refuse bags, placing them in a trolley and walking out of the centre.