Why the breakthrough in the AKA and Tibz murder case should inspire hope in our police

Amid a backdrop of widespread crime and the daunting spectre of unsolved cases, the SAPS's methodical and strategic approach in the AKA investigation is a testament to solid police work. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

Amid a backdrop of widespread crime and the daunting spectre of unsolved cases, the SAPS's methodical and strategic approach in the AKA investigation is a testament to solid police work. Picture: Se-Anne Rall

Published Feb 28, 2024


In a country where the wheels of justice often seem to turn slowly, the recent breakthrough in the investigation into the murders of celebrated musician Kiernan "AKA" Forbes and his friend, businessman Tebello "Tibz" Motsoane, must be a moment for us to pause, reflect and praise the efforts of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

And while it is still possibly a long road ahead before anyone is actually convicted for the crimes, the arrest of seven men involved in what appears to be a meticulously planned hit offers a rare moment of vindication for our beleaguered police force.

As a nation wearied by crime and haunted by countless unsolved murders, we have rightly criticised the police for what appeared to be their inability to charge a single person for gunning down one of South Africa’s biggest celebrities outside a restaurant on Durban’s popular Florida Road strip within the first 48 hours - or even the first month.

The slow pace of investigations, often hampered by inadequate resources and systemic challenges, has eroded public confidence in the SAPS's ability to protect and serve.

However, the painstaking methodical work by a crack team of detectives in the AKA murder case has revealed that solid police work sometimes takes time.

The revelations made by Police Minister Bheki Cele and KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi detail a narrative of relentless pursuit and sophisticated investigation techniques.

From gathering evidence shortly after the crime to the use of technology to link suspects across provinces and even borders, the SAPS demonstrated a level of diligence and acumen that belies the criticism often directed its way.

The recovery of vehicles involved in the murders, the identification and arrest of key figures including the alleged mastermind, and the meticulous piecing together of the suspects' movements offer a textbook example of modern detective work.

What's particularly commendable is the SAPS's strategic patience in building a watertight case, even as public pressure mounted for swift action.

This approach, marked by a collaboration with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and international law enforcement agencies such as Interpol, highlights a commitment to not just solving high-profile cases but ensuring the perpetrators are brought to justice.

This case also serves as a reminder of the challenges law enforcement agencies face in combating organised crime.

The alleged orchestration of the hit, involving sizeable payments and coordination among various roleplayers, highlights the sophisticated and transnational nature of criminal networks operating within South Africa.

It highlights the necessity for our police force to be equally sophisticated and persistent in their efforts to dismantle these networks.

Critics might argue that one successful investigation does not a summer make, and they would be right. South Africa's criminal justice system remains fraught with issues that need addressing, from underfunding to corruption.

However, the breakthrough in the AKA murder case provides a glimmer of hope, a testament to what can be achieved with dedication and the right resources.

As we move forward, it is essential that this case be seen not just as a singular victory but as a catalyst for broader reform within the SAPS. Investing in training, technology, and inter-agency cooperation is crucial for enhancing the investigative capabilities of our police force.

This case should serve as a rallying cry for the public to renew their support for law enforcement, recognising the challenges they face and the crucial role they play in maintaining the rule of law.

We must ensure South Africa does not become a "banana republic," but ensure it becomes a nation that rises to the challenge amidst great complexities.

The arrest of those involved in these murders is a testament to that capability, a beacon of hope in our ongoing struggle for a safer, just society.

IOL Opinion