Mystery in land claim shooting

Key figure in billion-rand Pretoria case murdered

A TRADITIONAL chief who laid claim to nearly half of Pretoria in a multibillionrand land claim has been shot dead outside his girlfriend’s home.

Chief Victor Lekhuleni, who was claiming 25 000ha for his tribe – the Mhwaduba of the Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni – was killed in Mamelodi West on Tuesday night.

The land stretches from Cullinan, east of Pretoria, to the Moot, and from Kameeldrift in the north to the Willows in the south.

The land, which is said to be worth billions of rands, includes diplomatic properties, the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, more than 400 farms, shopping centres, hospitals, schools, churches and thousands of homes, including a portion of the Magaliesberg mountain range.

A Land Claims Commission investigation is under way into the validity of Lekhuleni’s claim, which has sparked anger among thousands of business and homeowners, including members of his own tribe, who disputed his chiefdomship.

Police sources said yesterday that Lekhuleni, 48, who runs an initiation school in Mamelodi, had just arrived at his girlfriend’s home when an unknown man approached him.

“As the chief got out of the car, the gunman opened fire. There were shell casings everywhere,” a police source said.

“You could see this guy wanted to kill the chief and not just rob him. The chief’s gun and BMW were taken, but his car was found close-by a bit later. If it was a hijacking they wouldn’t have left his car close-by like this.

“There is something strange, especially with the land claim which would have made him and his clan very rich.”

Gauteng Regional Land Claims Commission chief director Cindy Benyane declined to speculate on a motive for the murder.

“We cannot make any link between the killing and the claim,” she said.

Benyane said because the claim was lodged on behalf of the Bakgatla ba Lekhuleni community, it was a community claim.

“Our regional land claims commissioner will proceed with the investigation of the claim’s legitimacy. The investigation is expected to be concluded by June.”

She said the community would now have to elect a substitute to act on behalf of Lekhuleni.

Piet van der Watt, who sits on a committee which is opposing the claim on behalf of property owners, said: “The shooting will have ramifications.

“We have heard of tribal rivalries and believe there might be something sinister to this. While we don’t wish ill on anyone, we hope this is the final nail in the coffin of this ridiculous claim.”

Van der Watt said while it was suspected rivalry was behind the murder “as the claim was worth billions, we have also heard Lekhuleni had other problems with the law”.

Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said police were investigating all possibilities and were appealing for anyone who had information to contact them.

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