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Book Extract

Lack of noise around Bagman's 2017 assassination an Ace in Magashule's deck

He was known as the Bentley bagman and he died in a hail of bullets on a busy Sandton road in 2017. The truth behind the assassination has yet to be uncovered, but police found bundles of cash in the car and he was known to have had strong links with the man who was soon to become ANC secretary-general. In this extract from his book on Ace Magashule, Pieter-Louis Myburgh describes bagman's death

31 March 2019 - 00:00 By Pieter-Louis Myburgh

Since dawn on the day of the murder, Tshepo Thabane (not his real name) had been at his usual spot on the corner of South Road and Bowling Avenue.
Like the other regular beggars and casual labourers who had made this intersection their base, the young man from the nearby Alexandra township usually arrived in time for the great procession of luxury sedans and SUVs that trickled past each weekday towards Sandton's business district.
His earnings from that morning's peak-hour traffic had been pretty good. With noon fast approaching, Tshepo's mind started to drift towards thoughts of food. As he counted the coins in one of his trouser pockets, he could almost hear his stomach berating him for having skipped breakfast.
Tshepo was just about to go and buy lunch somewhere nearby when his eye caught the grey Bentley Continental GT driving in a southerly direction on Bowling Avenue, towards the intersection. The car glided into the turn-off lane that feeds into South Road. The impressive machine stood out even among the other expensive cars Tshepo had become accustomed to seeing at this crossing.
The robot was red, and there was just one car in front of the Bentley. At the next flash of the traffic light's green arrow, it was destined to turn right into South Road and cruise towards the CBD. Meanwhile, Tshepo noticed that a silver Audi A4 had snuck into the slipway that carries Bowling Avenue's traffic into South Road going in the opposite direction, away from the CBD and towards Alexandra. It had come to a halt on the side of the slipway, less than 15m from where the Bentley waited at the traffic light.
Then two men got out of the Audi. Both brandished handguns and wore hoodies drawn over their heads. The car had tinted windows, but Tshepo could make out the silhouette of a third man who remained waiting behind the steering wheel. The two men were young, Tshepo noticed. He thought that they couldn't have been older than 25.
Tshepo thought he could hear the men exchange a few words in Zulu. Later, as he replayed the scene in his head for the umpteenth time, Tshepo would note that time didn't freeze or slow down at all that day. If the movies were anything to go by, action scenes were supposed to unfold in slow motion. What he saw next, however, happened at a frighteningly normal pace.
The two men walked towards the stationary Bentley. Wearing a grey hoodie, the shorter of the two gunmen positioned himself in front of the sleek sedan. His accomplice, a tall, slender man wearing a blue top, stood right next to the driver's window. "Open the door!" Tshepo heard the taller man shout in English.
The Bentley driver understandably disobeyed the order. The tall gunman then tried to break the Bentley's window by smashing it with his weapon, but he was unsuccessful. The driver and sole occupant of the Bentley now realised that he would have to take drastic action if he wanted to live. He let the car shoot forward, forcing the gunman in grey to hop out of the way.
The Bentley smashed into the car in front of it. The latter's driver panicked and sped off over the crossing, undeterred by the red robot. The Bentley, however, failed to follow the other car over the crossing to get away from the gunmen. The engine had either stalled or the driver was paralysed with fear.
At this point, the two assassins had had enough. The taller man pointed his gun at the driver and, without hesitation, fired off a few shots in quick succession. Tshepo couldn't see if the bullets hit the driver, but he knew the man was done for.
The two gunmen headed back to the silver Audi. Tshepo again noted that their actions contrasted with those of the characters he had seen making getaways on television. Instead of sprinting back to the car, the young men strolled towards it, their relaxed pace in step with the nonchalance with which they had just carried out their grim task. The Audi left the scene in an equally orderly manner. Without the theatrics of screeching tyres or frantic swerving, it simply slipped up South Road, vanishing from view.
Tshepo moved towards the Bentley. Peeking inside, he saw blood gushing from the driver's head and neck. He didn't have much time to assess the gory scene because the car's powerful six-litre twin-turbocharged engine suddenly roared to life.
Tshepo jumped back as the Bentley lurched forward. He would never be sure whether this was the result of the dying man's final conscious actions or whether his death spasms had somehow kicked the car into motion. The grey sedan accelerated over South Road, careened to the left and narrowly avoided colliding with the traffic island and robot on the far side of the intersection. It continued down Bowling Avenue in a southerly direction, passing a BP fuel station on its left, before smashing into a lamppost on another traffic island.
The car's spooky last dash had carried it some 135metres from where the driver had been shot. A group of people from the fuel station and elsewhere started to gather at the scene. The first emergency responders and police cars arrived not long after, probably at about 12pm. Tshepo watched as that part of Bowling Avenue became busier and busier.
By 12.05, some of the police officers and paramedics on site had removed the driver's body from the car. The body of Phikolomzi Ignatius "Igo" Mpambani, who was 37 at the time of his violent death on Tuesday June 20 2017, was placed on the traffic island next to the Bentley and covered with a silver first-aid blanket.
Tshepo would not have been aware of this, but the first responders found a soft cooler bag bearing the logo of a major supermarket chain in the footwell of the front passenger seat. Dark blue, it had the word "goodness" printed on one side. It was stuffed, not with fresh groceries, but with several stacks of banknotes held together with elastic bands.
A quick glance at the cash would have been enough to realise that it was a lot of money. In fact, the cooler bag contained just R100 shy of half-a-million rand.
There was another R500,000 in the boot. This second stash was also made up of several bundles of banknotes, but instead of being stuffed in a cooler bag, this money simply lay loose among some documents and a briefcase.
When Tshepo later heard about the R1m that had been found in the car, he was not surprised that the gunmen had left behind all that money. The young men who shot Mpambani weren't there to steal something, Tshepo would tell people in the days and weeks after the murder. They were the type of men who got paid to kill someone.
As the months went by, Mpambani's death featured less and less in conversations among the community of beggars and job-seekers at Tshepo's intersection.
It seemed certain that the story about the young businessman's gruesome end would soon fade into oblivion.
A certain Elias Sekgobelo Magashule, for one, would have been relieved about the fact that Mpambani's demise did not draw too much attention. The man popularly known as "Ace" intended to be elected to one of the most powerful political positions in SA at the ruling party's elective conference in December of that year.
Any investigation into his murky dealings with the slain tender mogul would have posed a serious threat to his political ambitions...

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