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Free State records huge drop in crime in first quarter

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Staff Reporter

Murder and sexual offences dropped by about 40 percent between April and June in the Free State as the province recorded the biggest ever drop in crime figures, according to the police.

According to the first quarter crime statistics released Friday for the period of April 1 to June 30, 2020, murder cases were 43.4 percent lower from 221 last year to 125.

Sexual offences fell by 40 percent from 818 to 491.

“. . . the first quarter of the 2020/2021 period was a much safer time to live in the country,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said as he announced the results in Pretoria.

Nationally, 3 466 murder cases were recorded in the first quarter compared to 5 398 last year, a 35.8 percent drop.

Sexual offences eased 39.7 percent from 12 094 to 7 296 cases.

Cele said the latest figures show major decreases in all crime categories compared to the same comparative period last year.

“The statistics . . . paint a never seen before ‘rosy’ picture of a peaceful South Africa experiencing a crime holiday,” the minister said.

The sharp drop in crime has been attributed to limited movement by people as this was the period when the country was under lockdown levels five, four and three.

Cele said there was also increased police visibility and that the ban on alcohol sales also helped reduce crimes.

There was a 42.3 percent decline in rape cases from 664 to 383 in the Free State.

Robbery was also down with carjacking dropping by 70 percent while house and business robberies fell by 23.6 percent and 40.4 percent respectively.

No cases of cash-in-transit and bank robberies were recorded in the province.

Meanwhile, three people have been arrested in unrelated incidents in Bultfontein and Virginia, northern Free State, for dealing in drugs possession of unlicensed firearms.

A 50-year-old man was arrested Thursday in the Kgotha Section, Phahameng in Bultfontein after police received a tip-off that he was dealing in drugs.

After requesting to search the house, the police were told they could not enter one of the rooms as owner was not there.

They eventually opened the room and found clothes scattered on the floor as well as dagga wrapped in plastics, about 90 Mandrax tablets and some cash in the bathroom.

The man was immediately arrested and charged with dealing in drugs.

A man and a woman were also arrested on the same day at a house in Sloja Section, Meloding in Virginia for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition as well as dealing in drugs.

The police pounced on the two, both aged 55, as they arrived home after monitoring the house for several hours.

Upon searching the house, the police found a RAP 401 firearm with the serial number filed off and a magazine with no rounds, a.38 Special revolver firearm with serial number filed off and four live rounds, a licensed Norinco firearm in a holster inside a bag with no live rounds and there were additional eight live rounds of ammunition found inside a jacket.

In another room, they found 357 pokes of dagga.

Five plastics with loose dagga were also found inside a big black refuse plastic bag.

The pair has been charged with possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition as well dealing in dagga.

DEALER BUST . . . Police seized dagga, Mandrax tablets and some cash during a raid in Bultfontein

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds

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STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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Jilted lover up for double murder

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A 30-year-old man will appear in the Viljoenskroon Magistrates Court this Wednesday facing two charges of murder.

Fezile Dabi district police spokesperson Captain Malebo Khosana said the man was arrested for the double murder after he went to his ex-girlfriend’s house at about 4am on Saturday.

“He suspected that the ex-girlfriend was sleeping with the current boyfriend,” said Malebo in a statement.

“Upon . . . arrival at the ex-girlfriend’s home, he stabbed her to death and hit her son with a hammer on the head,” added the police spokesperson.

The suspect then fled the scene.

He is said to have told the police that thought the little boy was the woman’s current boyfriend.

Paramedics were called to the scene and declared both the 34-year-old mother and her 14-year-old son dead on the scene.

The suspect was later arrested after police were tipped of his whereabouts by community members.

The actual motive for the attack is still being investigated. – Staff Reporter

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Killer of businessman Helepi jailed for life

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SLAIN BUSINESSMAN . . . Tavern owner and former footballer Lejoni Alfred Helepi was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein

The man accused of killing Bloemfontein businessman and former Moroka Swallows FC player Lejoni Alfred Helepi in March 2016 has been sentenced to life imprisonment by the Free State High Court after being extradited from Lesotho.

Ntsane Togowe, 42, was given an additional 15 years by Judge Pitso Molitsoane on Monday after he was convicted of murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Helepi was killed in his bathroom on March 29, 2016 in the robbery which included four other accused persons.

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) said the slain businessman was attacked and fatally shot after taking a shower in his house in Phahameng, Bloemfontein, where he operated a tavern.

The accused took about R40 000 and fled the scene using Helepi’s vehicle.

The vehicle was later found abandoned in Phelindaba.

The high-profile case suffered a major setback in November 2016 when the Bloemfontein Regional Court struck it off the roll after the state failed to secure a trial date at the High Court and finalise investigations “within a reasonable period”.

Togowe and his co-accused, namely Baninzi Gxama Dira Moreenyane, Ntabiseng Clementinah Lempe and Maseboko Alice Majake, had spent about nine months in custody.

Their lawyer, Saintin Seitheisho, successfully argued against further remand saying the state had been given adequate time to finalise their investigations and set a trial date.

The matter was stood down for several hours to allow the state to come back with information on when the case could proceed, but it failed to do so, leaving the presiding officer with no choice but to strike the matter off the court roll and proceed by way of summons.

That decision inadvertently allowed some of the accused to disappear and the police could not find them when the case was supposed resume.

“Togowe handed himself over to the police in 2018, after widespread reports that he was wanted for the murder of Helepi and he was released on bail,” said NPA regional spokesperson Phaladi Shuping.

Togowe, who is believed to have pulled the trigger on the fateful day, eventually stood trial alone after he was granted bail.

But in October 2018, he mysteriously disappeared from the High Court after the judge briefly adjourned the matter to allow him to deliver judgment in the afternoon.

A warrant was immediately issued for his arrest.

“He allegedly escaped to Lesotho without a passport as it was handed to the investigating officer as part of his bail conditions. He was arrested for robbery in Lesotho on July 27, 2019 and the Hawks, upon knowing his whereabouts, started the process of extraditing him to South Africa. This was successfully done on 8 December 2021,” said Shuping.

In aggravation, state prosecutor Lucky Bontes requested the court to impose harsh punishment on the accused because he failed to show any remorse as he denied being involved in the murder and robbery of the deceased even after his conviction.

“The deceased was killed in the comfort of his own home, after taking a shower and one of the witnesses had to cover his body with a blanket,” said Bontes.

“It was obvious that he was not carrying a weapon but they shot him twice and there was no reason to kill him because they could have just taken whatever they wanted . . .”

Gxama was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in June 2019.

The other three suspects, Moreenyane, Lempe and Majake are still at large.

Police made their first break-through in the matter just a day after the incident when Majake admitted to having planned the robbery with the other four.

Following the arrest of Majake and Lempe, the two women — both employed by Helepi at the time — then assisted the police to find the three men.

Togowe and Gxama are said to have stormed Helepi’s Tavern and demanded cash.

In a well-orchestrated move, the two are said to have held Majake and Lempe hostage in the tavern, yet they part of the robbery scheme.

They went on to demand keys to the safe.

At that point, the court heard, Togowe allegedly went to the bathroom in the house where Helepi was taking a shower and shot him in the upper body.

He collapsed and died on the spot.

The pair then took the cash, Helepi’s gun, three cellphones, house keys and several sets of car keys before fleeing the scene in a bakkie which belonged to the businessman.

They later abandoned it.

Free State Director of Public Prosecutions Advocate Navilla Somaru has commended Lesotho police, the Hawks and the prosecutor for their commitment in ensuring that Togowe was brought to book for the murder of Helepi. – Staff Reporter

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