Top sleuth’s death soon after appearing in Dr Nandipha Magudumana’s case shocks the nation

Brig Jackson Mkhaulesi spent more than three decades in police service

07 June 2023 - 12:23
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Brig Jackson Mkhaulesi’s sudden death has left many shocked
Brig Jackson Mkhaulesi’s sudden death has left many shocked
Image: Supplied

Dressed in a black coat with a stern face, Brig Jackson Mkhaulesi cut an intimidating figure at the back of the Bloemfontein high court this week where he recorded his first victory against accused Dr Nandipha Magudumana. It would be his last.

Hours later, Mkhaulesi, a lead investigator in the Thabo Bester prison escape case, was found dead in what is believed to have been a suicide that shocked the nation. 

A decorated master sleuth who earned accolades including the provincial second-best improved detective in Ficksburg and runner-up best detective commander in 2009, according to an article published in the Goldfields & NFS, Mkhaulesi had 31 years in the police service. He was voted the best detective commander in 2012 and 2013.

Mkhaulesi was found dead in his car in Bloemfontein with a gunshot wound. The impact of the bullet shattered one of the windows. 

He was last seen in court earlier that day when Magudumana was challenging her arrest in Tanzania and deportation to South Africa.

Judge Phillip Loubser, who slapped Magudumana with a cost order for two counsels, said it was evident the process used to bring Magudumana back to South Africa was extradition without due process and not deportation. 

Before Loubser exited the court, Mkhaulesi could be seen standing in the gallery and showing little emotion about the outcome of Magudumana’s case. 

National police commissioner Gen Fannie Masemola confirmed Mkhaulesi’s death.

“Circumstances surrounding the senior officer’s death, who is also the provincial head responsible for organised crime in Free State, remain the subject of a police investigation,” Masemola said. .

Masemola described Mkhaulesi as a hardworking, loyal and dedicated detective.

“Over the years he has proven himself to be a highly-skilled detective with a wealth of experience and knowledge in crime detection. His departure leaves a void in the detective environment. On behalf of the South African Police Service, our sincerest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of our officer,” said Masemola.

South African Policing Union secretary in Free State Lebohang Helepi said if Mkhaulesi was murdered, police should treat the case as treason.

“A death of a member is big loss to us. Having to lose a member who has 25 to 30 years' experience is very worrying and doesn’t sit well with us,” said Helepi.

He said it was highly unlikely the Bester escape case would be affected by Mkhaulesi’s death.

“The death of the member should not be fatal to the case. The normal practice in the police service is that when you’re working on a file, you don’t work on it alone.”

Helepi said a brigadier was the first level of senior management in the police and it was rare to find them hands-on with a case.

“A brigadier serves an intermediary between his subordinates and provincial leadership, especially when it comes to high-profile cases, as they have an interest in the matter. It is rare cases where you’d find a brigadier carrying a case file,” said Helepi.

“A brigadier would be overseeing the entire investigation. It hardly happens that you would find a brigadier going out to gather evidence.”

Mkhaulesi joined the police service in 1992. He grew up in Botshabelo and worked in the police station in the area and stations in Park Road, Batho, Mangaung, Kopanong, Bloemfontein and Ficksburg.

“There is nothing impossible for a willing heart. If you are committed and have a passion for what you are doing you can move mountains,” he told Goldfields & NFS.

Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union Free State chairperson Thabo Lefalatsa said he was saddened by the death.

“He was a hardworking and committed police leader who wanted to ensure the safety of all citizens of this country.

“He was a detective officer who used to lead from the front and he was a people’s person. We had a sound working relationship with him as the head of organised crime in the province.”        


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