Hitman gets life for councillor’s execution, but reason behind contract still unexplained
As a hitman was escorted to a Port Elizabeth prison yesterday to start serving a life sentence for murder, he took with him the reason behind the brazen execution of ANC councillor Buyisile Mkavu, leaving family and colleagues yearning for answers.
Bongani Cagwe, 30, described as a callous man with a scant regard for human life, was sentenced to the maximum term in a packed Port Elizabeth High Court.
He accepted just R17 000 to shoot Mkavu, 41, six times at point-blank range as he sat next to a friend in his white Range Rover in Mlawu Street, KwaNobuhle, on August 2 2014.
But as Cagwe opened fire, he leaned on the review mirror, leaving behind a palm print that would ultimately help the prosecution to secure a conviction two years later.
His fingerprints, together with a reliable eye-witness account, had Judge Daylan Chetty concluding yesterday that Cagwe was a pathological liar.
However, the riddle of the middleman identified only as “Mava”, remains a mystery after he, too, was found shot dead.
It was Mava who deposited R17 000 into Cagwe’s bank account two days after the shooting.
“In short, it was a callous case of contract killing. The motive, however, remains a mystery, but the resolution of that conundrum is entirely unnecessary,” Chetty said.
Mkavu’s older brother, Xolile Msizi, 55, speaking on behalf of the family, said while they felt justice had been done, they still had so many questions.
Chetty said Cagwe’s existence had been characterised by drinking and robbing others through random acts of violence.
“[Cagwe’s] callousness and disregard for the sanctity of life are amply demonstrated by his conduct after killing [Mkavu].
“He spent the remainder of that evening revelling with his friends until the early hours of the morning, slept a while, and continued in the same fashion, with scant regard for the enormity of his murderous conduct,” Chetty said.
At the time, Mkavu was the human settlements portfolio chairman who, it is believed, was on the verge of uncovering mass corruption in the department – the suspected motive for his murder.
He had stopped near the home of a fellow ANC councillor in Mlawu Street, when Cagwe walked up to him and opened fire. Witness Mzwandile Madela, who had just emerged from a house in the area, testified to seeing a vehicle stop in front of the Range Rover, a person emerge from the passenger seat and proceed to where Mkavu was seated. Shots rang out. The shooter fled. Mkavu’s friend and passenger was in a state of shock and took refuge in a nearby home.
The friend, who testified in camera, fingered Cagwe as the triggerman during a photo identification process.
Chetty said although severely traumatised, the witness’s version that the shooting had happened in close proximity was corroborated by the five cartridge cases found inside the Range Rover.
State advocate Mzwamadoda Mnyani had conceded to inaccuracies in the friend’s testimony, but given the harrowing ordeal he was subjected to, Chetty said, inconsistencies were bound to arise.
Turning to Cagwe’s palm print found on the bottom side of the review mirror, Chetty said given the height of the mirror – about 1.5m from the ground – this had to have been left by a person in a crouching position.
Cagwe’s defence was an outright denial.
While he admitted to the presence of his palm print, he said he had stood at the vehicle earlier that day while chatting to Mkavu.
Lukhanyo Matini, declared a hostile witness due to his unwillingness to testify, said he had received a call from a person named Mava on August 3 2014.
He was instructed to drive Cagwe to Mava’s home in Kleinskool.
Chetty said it could be accepted that this was when Cagwe handed the firearm back to Mava, before his arrest.
Loyiso Fesi said that on August 8 2014 Mava had come to his home and handed him a firearm, later identified as the murder weapon.
He said Mava had appeared agitated and had left on foot. Mava’s body was discovered the following day. He, too, had been shot.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that the cash deposited into his banking account represented payment for killing [Mkavu].
“The fact that the account had been opened two days after the death of [Mkavu] fortifies the conclusion that the killing was for a reward,” Chetty said.
Msizi said the best thing that could have happened yesterday, had happened. “The bottom line is Mkavu won’t be back. A vacancy has been left in our family.
“With the information in front of him, the judge did the best he could. While we know why he may have been killed, many of these details remain a mystery,” Msizi said.
Former Nelson Mandela Bay ANC regional secretary Zandisile Qupe said the ANC had been robbed of a cadre who would still have been leading today.