Shooter said mystery ‘lady’ sent him and the others
“We are not after your car.”
That is what an alleged hitman told SABC audit executive Thami Zikode after his intended victim foiled what is now believed to have been a hit on his life.
And, if Zikode had not been armed or had not opened fire on his attacker in the dramatic evening shoot-out, senior SABC sources told City Press, he would not have lived to tell the tale.
The attacker allegedly told Zikode, and later the police, that he and his two accomplices had not intended to rob Zikode of his car – an indication that the attack outside his Johannesburg South home was not a hijacking as initially suspected, but an assassination attempt.
Senior SABC sources, a police source, a witness and a close confidant of Zikode told City Press on Saturday that the attacker came to the driver’s side of his car and started knocking on his tinted windows with his gun, which he then pointed at Zikode.
“After Thami shot him, he asked him: ‘You wanted to hijack the car and kill me in the process?’ The gunman then said, ‘No, we did not want your car.’ He later heard the guy telling the police the same thing, that they were not after the car,” said the confidant.
A witness at the scene alleged the gunman told him and others gathered there, after witnessing the gunfight, that he and his accomplices “had been sent by one lady”. He later repeated the same thing to police, the witness said.
Several SABC sources said this did not surprise them, adding that there were many possible suspects named in forensic reports and others currently being investigated, and they were cooperating with the Hawks investigation.
A 32-year-old suspect, who has not yet been named, is expected to appear before the Johannesburg Magistrates’ Court tomorrow charged with attempted hijacking. More charges could be added as a manhunt is under way for his accomplices.
Zikode has led the internal audit department at the SABC for the past 18 months. The police investigation is now focused on which aspect of his work the hit could be related to.
A former official in the Office of the Auditor-General, Zikode previously audited the locomotives tender involving rail agency Prasa, the payments of irregular bonuses to SA Revenue Services executives, and the controversial Integrated Financial Management System at National Treasury.
He also recently concluded a forensic audit into the SABC’s sale of its archives to the now-defunct Gupta-owned television channel, ANN7.
SABC board chair Bongumusa Makhathini said in an SABC interview on Saturday that there were numerous reports detailing corruption and mismanagement at the broadcaster and a war was raging around clean-up efforts.
“We have produced over 100 such reports that we have to follow through. We have to hold people accountable and Zikode is at the helm of driving that clean-up,” he said.
“Certainly, there is a fight-back ... If you look at what Zikode’s role is and at him being attacked, it is clear that there are people intent on fighting back.
“He is not deterred. He is determined to continue with his work. He is fully committed and prepared to do this because it is the right thing to do.”
At about 7.25pm on Friday, Zikode came to a stop outside his house to open the gate.
“A silver Daihatsu Terios stopped a few metres in front of him, and a guy in the left front passenger seat jumped out of the car,” the confidant told City Press.
“He had a gun in his hand. Thami kept calm – he knew he had a firearm because he was running towards him.”
The attacker came to the driver’s side and knocked twice on his window before pointing his gun at him.
“Thami fired a shot through the window and as he tried to return fire, Thami fired more shots,” another source said.
“Then the guy behind the driver’s seat opened the door to get out and Thami, who had got out of his car, fired more shots at this man and at the car.”
City Press learnt that there were two men in the getaway vehicle, and that Zikode fired at it and its tyres as it sped off, leaving the injured gunman behind.
“After they sped away, Thami asked his attacker if he was there to hijack and kill him, and the guy said: ‘No, we do not want your car.’”
A witness to the shooting told City Press that Zikode had just parked in front of his gate when the attack took place.
“When we went to the shooter to find out what happened, he said they were looking for a similar car to Zikode’s. But he later changed his story and said he and his accomplices had been sent by one lady,” he said.
The witness said that they were then interrupted by police, who arrived at the scene between 15 and 20 minutes after the shooting, and after neighbourhood security had cordoned off the area.
“The gunman had three shots in him. His gun was next to Thami’s car. When the police opened it, it was loaded,” another source said.
“The police took his details, and he named his accomplices and told them who the car belonged to. And then the ambulance was called and he was taken under police guard to a medical facility.”
Zikode declined to comment, but confirmed the accounts put to him by City Press.
Sources close to the investigation confirmed that the suspect was shot twice in the leg and once in the arm.
By Saturday afternoon, he was still under police guard in hospital.
The case is now being investigated by the Hawks after it was transferred from the SAPS’s Moffat View police station in Johannesburg South, where Zikode made a statement detailing his ordeal at about midnight on Friday.
Police sources said the suspect was interrogated in hospital.
Officers found the getaway car in the early hours of Saturday morning near Southgate shopping centre, and it is now being stored at a police facility.
The attack on Zikode comes in the week that journalist Foeta Krige’s book, The SABC 8, was launched, detailing the climate of fear, threats and intimidation faced by independent staff at the public broadcaster during the tenure of former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Makhathini said on Saturday he believed that the backlash at the SABC emanated from five reports, including former public protector Thuli Madonsela’s report about Motsoeneng’s fake matric, whose “recommendations we have to implement”.
“Then there is a Special Investigating Unit report. They have done a number of investigations. Out of that there are about 38 matters and, of those, 23 are disciplinary matters and some are litigation matters,” he said.
“The third aspect is the Auditor-General report, which has come up with a lot of irregular expenditure. There is an ad hoc parliamentary report that also came up with a number of things that we need to implement.
“But the last aspect is our own internal forensic investigation, which produced about 108 forensic reports. All of those talk to people who did things wrong, and we are expected to hold them accountable.”
Makhathini said the SABC had been “poorly run”, adding: “People have stolen money, have compromised and contravened our policies – and, as a result, as we drive this campaign, of course people are uncomfortable.”
Police sources told City Press that they were investigating whether the getaway car was linked to any other crimes. Officers also sent the attacker’s pistol for ballistics testing to establish whether it had been used in the commission of other crimes.
The suspect was also being profiled while the search for his three accomplices continued.
Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Mavela Masondo confirmed the arrest of the suspect and said investigations were continuing.