One year later, still no justice for AKA

Saturday marks exactly one year since rapper AKA was gunned down. The rapper, real name Kiernan Forbes, was shot dead outside a restaurant in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

He had just enjoyed a meal with friends at the popular seafood restaurant on Florida Road in Durban.

No arrests, no updates 

To date, no arrests have been made in connection with the murder.

KZN police spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Netshiunda told Sunday World that police would not provide an update on an ongoing investigation.

“There are updates being provided on the matter. We appealed for patience and to be afforded space to investigate without undue scrutiny and unwarranted pressure,” said Netshiunda.

AKA and his friend Tebello “Tibz” Motsoane were shot and killed outside the Wish restaurant on Florida Road in Durban on February 10, 2023. The brazen killing was captured on CCTV camera footage. The footage circulated on social media soon after the callous murder, causing shock and outrage among the public. AKA was 35 years old when he was killed.

Suspected hit

The murder of AKA is believed in some quarters to have been an assassination or hit.

Sunday World enquired about the status of the police investigations into the AKA murder case. Lirandzu Themba, spokesperson for Police Minister Bheki Cele, said the minister does not have any information to share.

Last year, KZN police commission Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi said the police identified a couple of vehicles that were used in the murder. He said some of the vehicles were used as getaway vehicles. Some were used as spotters. Others were used by the perpetrators after the commission of the killings.

No new developments in investigation

Mkhwanazi also said police have identified at least one firearm that was used in the murder and is positively linked to the crime.

He added that the police have identified certain individuals that they will consider questioning.

Last year, Cele said he received daily updates on the case.

He said police have collected a lot of cellphones that they are working on. They have downloaded certain data from the phones. He added that they are working on “trying to put things together”.

High profile case

Meanwhile, crime experts gave possible reason for the delay in arrests. They said it could be that investigators want to gather sufficient and concrete evidence. The kind of evidence that can secure a guilty conviction when the matter goes to court.

Senior training coordinator and researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, Willem Els, differs. He said police are under pressure to solve the AKA case because it involves a prominent celebrity.

“They have a lot of pressure because he [AKA] was a celebrity. There have been several comments by the Police Minister [Cele] and [KZN police] commissioner [Mkhwanazi]. They started to give comments to the public due to public pressure. It is good to keep the public informed.

“But it is a delicate balance they must strike when investigating [some cases]. A high-profile and maybe politically connected or sensitive case like this one [is a case in point]. There is pressure for them to demonstrate progress. But they must be very careful not to  release information prematurely that might jeopardise the case.

Special task teams for organised crime

“There should be progress in this case, and people should be arrested. When you have a complicated case like this, they [police] need to keep it close to their chest. That’s until the time is right [for them to reveal information to the public],” said Els.

Els said police should invest a lot of resources in specialised investigating teams. They should also strengthen their crime intelligence. This will help them to nab masterminds behind organised hits or assassinations.

“It is very difficult to get masterminds because these people work in organised crime syndicates… What they do is only certain people have certain information, and there are a lot of layers in between. So should one person be arrested, the arrested person cannot compromise other people. They build all these layers, which are barriers that police have to deal with.

“Police need to invest manpower, training, resources, and funds in specialised task teams. It starts with intelligence. The police should rebuild their intelligence so that they will be able to infiltrate these [hitmen] syndicates. It starts with intelligence, which gets converted into evidence, and then the matter goes to court. Police should set up an effective intelligence capacity. This will help them get to the core [of who the masterminds are],” said Els.

These types of cases take long to solve

Dr Guy Lamb, a criminologist at Stellenbosch University, agreed. He said said the delay in arrests is probably due to police wanting to build a watertight case. Once done, it will secure a conviction.

“This is a high-profile case, and he was a well-known celebrity and famous, successful musician in South Africa. The police are taking a more careful approach to the investigation,” he said.

“I think they most likely want to secure convictions. To do that, they have to make sure they have sufficient evidence. Then they can present the docket to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). This will secure approval from the NPA for the docket to go to court.

“The police want to build a case around the perpetrators and want a strong, capable case. It takes time to build such a case because you have to activate a specialised team to do this.

They need to get statements that will stand in court. The delay has been frustrating for the families of the victims. But I think from the police point of view they are trying to create and establish the strongest case possible. This is so that when they go to court they have a watertight case.”

Unit for criminal masterminds and their hierarchy

Lamb said police should establish a unit within the police force that looks at where hitmen are trained and how they are recruited. This will help to nab masterminds behind assassinations.

“It is difficult for the police [to arrest masterminds] because, in the case of the shooters, you have the CCTV footage. [You also have] firearms used, and ballistic evidence to arrest them as an individual. In the sense of the person who ordered the hit, then you need a combination of evidence.

Hitmen are layers away from the mastermind

“The shooter will provide testimony as to who gave the order, and in many cases, these shooters do not know who the mastermind is. The shooters are either approached anonymously or through an intermediary or a series of intermediaries.

“The person who ordered the hit is several layers away from the shooter. The layers are built in such a way that the identity of the mastermind is protected. And the police cannot get enough evidence to implicate them.

“It would be important to focus on a unit that looks at hitmen. Where they are trained and recruited. It will get a better understanding of that sector, have informants in that sector, and tackle it that way,” said Lamb.

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