Home Opinion and Features How, when and why: Police detail arrests of six AKA murder suspects

How, when and why: Police detail arrests of six AKA murder suspects

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KwaZulu-Natal’s top cop, provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, has detailed how, when and why members of the SA Police Service rounded up the six murder suspects linked to the murder of rapper AKA.

Rapper AKA, real name Kiernan Forbes, was gunned down in February last year. File picture

KWAZULU-Natal’s top cop, provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, has detailed how, when and why members of the SA Police Service rounded up the six murder suspects linked to the murder of rapper AKA.

The first arrest was made as early as April last year.

AKA, real name Kiernan Forbes, was gunned down at close range outside the Wish restaurant on Durban’s Florida Road on February 10, 2023.

AKA’s friend, Tibz, real name, Tebello Motsoane, was caught in the line of fire, the police top brass confirmed on Tuesday night.

Police Minister Bheki Cele talks about the AKA murder investigation on Tuesday night after six men were arrested in connection with the killing of the rapper. Picture: Viasen Soobramoney, Independent Newspapers

KZN provincial commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi briefs the media about the AKA murder, announcing six suspects have been arrested. Picture: Viasen Soobramoney, Independent Newspapers

The police said that the initial plan was apparently to shoot AKA when he was inside the minibus he was travelling in, but the hitmen ran out of patience because he was taking too long as he was hugging and greeting his friend Tibz, who was shot dead in the same attack.

The hit was allegedly carried out by young men, with the oldest among the six just 36.

Mkhwanazi said more arrests were expected and revealed that a seventh suspect was on the run after Eswatini publication “Times of Swaziland” revealed that two brothers had been arrested by the Swazi police in Mbabane.

HOW, WHEN AND WHY THE ARRESTS WERE MADE

Mkhwanazi said the police made the first arrests in April last year. The police at the time dismissed the reports, but they have since explained they did not want to compromise their investigation.

The suspects arrested in that case included the organiser of the vehicles and firearms used in the execution.

The sixth suspect to be arrested was described by both Mkhwanazi and Police Minister Bheki Cele as “umdidiyeli wezinkabi” – which loosely translates to the co-ordinator of the hitmen.

The six suspects comprise of a co-ordinator (who paid and organised the whole mission), the organiser of the vehicles and firearms, two shooters and two spotters.

The question of whether there was another mastermind beyond the alleged organiser and co-ordinator, will be the subject of further investigations.

The alleged co-ordinator was the same suspect who allegedly followed AKA on arrival from the King Shaka International Airport, to the hotel and then to the Florida Road restaurant where he would be gunned down.

“This person was also responsible for the gathering of the resources to get the team together as well as the rewards that came thereafter when they have done their jobs,” said Mkhwanazi.

The alleged organiser of firearms and vehicles was the first to be arrested in April last year. He was arrested among a group of men who were apprehended in Belhar, Cape Town.

The other three men were later released after charges were dropped, but the alleged organiser was kept in police custody.

Rapper AKA. Picture: Instagram

Mkhwanazi also revealed how the well-planned hit on AKA involved using spotters, gunmen, hired vehicles and cash for all the suspects.

TIMELINE OF ARRESTS

– April 22, 2023: The first suspect was arrested in Belhar, Cape Town. He was the alleged organiser who hired vehicles and guns. He was also in police custody for several unrelated murders. This suspect’s lawyer previously accused the police of assault and torture by tubing.

– October 24, 2023: The second suspect, who was an alleged spotter, was arrested. He was linked to another unrelated murder in the Berea area.

– December 14, 2023: The third suspect was arrested. He is one of the alleged shooters. He was also arrested for an unrelated eManzimtoti murder.

– February 24, 2024 – The fourth and fifth suspects, believed to be brothers, were arrested in the rented hideout in Mbabane, Eswatini. One of the brothers was an alleged spotter, while the other was one of the alleged shooters. They are also linked with other murders in the Berea area.

– February 27, 2024: The sixth suspect is the alleged co-ordinator, who allegedly assembled and paid all the suspects. He was arrested after initially fleeing when the news of the Swazi arrests broke in the media. Police said he later handed himself over to the police with the assistance of his lawyers.

A seventh arrest is believed to be imminent.

CARS, GUNS AND CASH

Mkhwanazi said the suspects were linked to the AKA murder through four vehicles that were used in the planning, spotting and getaway – including a Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai i10 and VW Polo.

It has been reported that the police recovered the Mercedes-Benz as early as March last year, and that an airtime voucher assisted the police in their investigation.

Two of the vehicles had been rented and have since been returned to their owner, who has furnished the police with a statement.

The first of the vehicles identified was a Mercedes-Benz in March last year, while the last vehicle found was a VW Polo in October last year.

The police also found the murder weapon linked to the AKA case on April 22, 2023, and cartridges from other murder scenes linked the suspects in the case.

Reports said each of the suspects was paid around R130,000, with Cele adding they were paid “not much” and “equally”.

THE SENZO MEYIWA STRATEGY

Mkhwanazi explained that the police used a similar modus operandi as cold case unit head Brigadier Bongani Gininda’s strategy in the Senzo Meyiwa murder case.

As was the case with the five murder accused in the Meyiwa murder case, where the police patiently rounded up the suspects on other serious charges and secured their presence in custody, before they later charged them with the Meyiwa murder once their investigation was complete.

Mkhwanazi said the police identified the suspects, rounded them up and charged them on “parallel” charges while they rounded up each of the AKA and Tibz murder suspects one by one.

“The strategy was to look for parallel cases they were involved in and not charge them on this one (AKA murder). The reason for that is that we wanted to get all the suspects. Out of the six suspects, four of them have parallel cases,” he said.

Mkhwanazi said the strategy was informed by the fact that they did not want the other suspects they were still looking into, to flee.

The suspects are expected to appear in a court, yet to be announced, on Thursday on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and other related charges.

COMMUNICATION

Mkhwanazi said the police strategy on communicating about the case was not to give a blow-by-blow account, but to inform the family first of developments, act and then communicate.

Cele said the police had been communicating regular updates about the case, but people did not believe them when they provided updates.

“It is not correct to say we have not been saying anything about the case and that we waited for Swazi … We have been talking about this thing, you just did not want to believe us,” Cele said.

“We said there are cars that are in the hands of the police, there are people that are linked in this case and they are in custody, maybe not emphasising the point, because the brief was to link them and put your ducks in a row.

“We have said it time and again that we are on track with this case.”

Cele said the police refused the pressure to compromise the case, but said the police had tried to take the public on board in terms of the investigation.

Mkhwanazi added: “I have said this before – once we have arrested everyone we need, we will then brief South Africans through the media. We were not going to call you if we were not happy with the case.”

The police said the motive was not known, but it was clear that there was a hit on AKA. They said they could not rule out the possibility of more arrests and said their investigation into the murder was still ongoing.

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