Nine bullets to silence a talkative insider
On a Friday afternoon in October 2015, a small Citroën bearing the logo of a new brand of energy drink, Orgazma, drew to a stop on the busy Garsfontein off-ramp on the N1 near Pretoria. In the passenger seat was a prominent businessman, Wandile Bozwana; a female colleague, Mpho Baloyi, was driving.
As Baloyi brought the car to a halt, a silver BMW pulled up alongside. One of the occupants of the BMW stepped out and coolly fired an automatic weapon at the Citroën, hitting Bozwana nine times.
Baloyi was hit twice, but managed to drive them both to a nearby car dealership, from where police and paramedics were summoned. She survived, but Bozwana died several hours later at a Pretoria hospital.
The murder bore all the characteristics of a hit, South African-style. The police investigation showed that the hit had been well planned: the perpetrators appeared to know Bozwana's movements and they targeted him at a vulnerable spot. Nothing was taken from him or his car, so it was evident that their motive was only to kill him.
The hitmen had been armed with automatic weapons, and were proficient in their use. They were later found to be in possession of cellphone-jamming devices, too.
As reported by the media, the hitmen showed all the signs of being professional killers, although perhaps not professional enough — by April 2017 the main hitman had been named (though not yet arrested); three others were behind bars and a fourth out on bail.
Bozwana's murder was extensively reported by the press because of his high profile in North West. He had benefited substantially from provincial government tenders. A Bophuthatswana policeman during apartheid, Bozwana had made good across a number of service industries and was a prolific funder of the ANC.
After his death, he was styled by some as one who had opposed corruption, having taken the provincial government to court, where he had accused premier Supra Mahumapelo of enriching himself, interfering in government procurement and awarding tenders to those close to him.
But the reality is more complex. Bozwana was in fact a sharp-elbowed operator whose business had benefited from his political connections. He had had to resign from a job at the North West Housing Corporation after a forensic audit found irregularities.
This was followed by several cases of tender fraud or substandard service delivery. In one example, Bozwana won the contract for the disposal of medical waste in Kimberley in 2015. His company lacked experience in this, and the service was badly implemented. The same trucks used to transport the medical-waste samples were also used for drinks deliveries and the waste was not disposed of according to correct standards.
With little compunction about using violence himself, Bozwana had been arrested along with four others in 2015 for torching the vehicles of a businessman, allegedly in a dispute over a government tender. The list of other illegal activities connected to Bozwana goes on.
Bozwana had made powerful enemies and, at the time of his killing, he was threatening to expose a network of corrupt practices. His comments must have posed a threat to certain vested interests.
Much was at stake, economically and politically — and Bozwana paid with his life.
This is an edited extracts from 'Hitmen For Hire: Exposing South Africa's Underworld' by Mark Shaw, published by Jonathan Ball Publishers, R275..