Police slammed for inaction over uMhlanga businessman hit probe

pravesh maharaj house wives owner murder
Homila Maharaj and her daughter Shivani Rampersad are relying on police to provide answers to why her husband, Pravesh Maharaj, was gunned down in KwaMashu recently. File picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA).

uMhlanga – CCTV footage has revealed the identity of the gunman who allegedly shot and killed an uMhlanga businessman in broad daylight at a KwaMashu petrol station.

But more than a month since the alleged “hit” on Pravesh Maharaj was carried out, his family were “astonished” that police were still fumbling over retrieving and accessing the footage.

Maharaj, the founder of the Housewives Market franchise, was allegedly lured to the site on September 6 by someone posing as KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala.

After a failed initial attempt to obtain the footage, Maharaj’s family claimed that investigators have made no further attempts.

That prompted his wife Homila, with the assistance of Advocate Anand Choudree, to write a letter of complaint to the provincial and national commissioners of police on September 30. Last week, they hand-delivered the same letter to local SAPS.

A day later, investigators again attempted to gain the footage from the service station near the Bridge City Shopping Centre, but went there without a memory stick.

A staff member at the service station purchased a memory stick for the officers on which to download the footage.

Shivani Rampersad, Maharaj’s eldest daughter, said they wanted the case docket to be taken away from Ntuzuma’s investigators and reassigned, possibly to the Hawks.

She said they were puzzled that police also made no attempt to gain CCTV footage from surrounding buildings and claimed that there were no witnesses to interview, yet a report in the POST Newspaper carried a bystander’s comments.

Alarming for the family was when policemen handed Maharaj’s possessions to Rampersad’s husband, Rohan, including a bullet casing.

While Rampersad had not viewed the footage herself, the policemen who did, told her that her father was seen on his phone when parked at the service station around 12.19pm.

A minute later a casually dressed male, wearing slippers, walked past Maharaj’s white Audi, and into the convenience store, then out again, but then walked around the back of the Audi towards Maharaj, who was in the car.

The shooting happened at 12.22pm and the man was then seen walking nonchalantly back to a silver Polo, before the car exited. Maharaj was shot six times, with the line of fire concentrated on his neck and chest.

Rampersad said she, her family and the paramedics had not yet been interviewed by the police and they were uncertain whether the car had undergone a forensic inspection.

Maharaj’s gold Rolex watch and a gold chain and pendants had been returned to them. Rampersad said they were also surprised by some of the events before her father’s shooting.

“It was unlike him to attend a business meeting at 7am. His working day usually began at 9am,” she said.

At the time of his death, Maharaj’s business interests included property, solar heating, water purification, and online education programmes.

She said it was odd that Maharaj travelled alone to the meeting, had no writing material or pens in his possession and that he was casually dressed.

Rampersad explained that Maharaj habitually dressed formally to meetings but was wearing casual attire on the day, and he always carried stacks of paper with him to take notes, especially at meetings.

“My father is known for driving Mercedes-Benz cars. Few people knew he was driving his Audi, which he received from Joburg a few days before the shooting.

“He called me about 11.10am on the day about fetching my daughter from school. I said it was not necessary. Then he said he had another call and had to go.

“I found that strange because he always said ‘love you, bye’ at the end.”

Rampersad said he was also not himself when he called her mother at 11.40am.

Days before his death, Maharaj received calls, on three separate occasions, from a man who claimed to be Zikalala and spoke about construction work at a hospital in KwaMashu.

Rampersad said their father believed he was meeting Zikalala on the day he was killed, and they later discovered that the premier was in Egypt at the time.

“We want justice for our father. This whole experience has been a nightmare for us.”

Rampersad said they couldn’t understand why anyone would want to kill someone who was a “visionary” and had a “go-getter spirit”.

“My dad had polio which affected his right leg but that didn’t prevent him from becoming a professional drag racer, skippering a yacht, scuba diving, swimming or bungee jumping.”

Bongani Tembe, Zikalala’s spokesperson, said: “We offer our deepest condolences to the family and call on police and the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority) to bring the perpetrators to book.”

Tembe confirmed that Zikalala was in Egypt during the week of Maharaj’s killing. Brigadier Jay Naicker, the SAPS provincial spokesperson, confirmed that the Maharaj family had approached the office of the provincial commissioner and expressed their unhappiness at the pace of the investigation.

“The docket has been summoned by the head of detectives in the province who has scrutinised the docket and instructed detectives based at the provincial Organised Crime Unit to handle the investigation,” said Naicker.

Source: Sunday Tribune

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