Mystery surrounds SA Special Forces role in terrorism suspect kidnapping

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Court documents in a missing persons case have pointed to South Africa Special Forces involvement, with the plot thickening after the murder of a Hawks investigator looking into the matter.

In late February this year, Abdurahim Hussein Abadiga approached the Johannesburg High Court on an urgent basis to try and secure the release of his brother (Abdella Hussein Abadiga), who he believes was kidnapped by Special Forces members in December 2022.

The court papers, published by Daily Maverick in a report by Open Secrets’ Hennie van Vurren, show that Abdurahim asked that Abdella and his bodyguard Kadir Jemal Abotese “be released from custody forthwith” or “placed before a court of law” so charges can be presented to them.

Abdurahim alleges the two were abducted from the Mall of Africa on 29 December “and the overwhelming probabilities are that they were abducted by members of the SANDF. I am in possession or have knowledge of the facts relevant to the abduction.”

The facts/knowledge presented include CCTV footage from the Mall of Africa, vehicle trace reports, and company registration information, amongst others. A key piece of evidence presented is footage of three vehicles registered to Peters Communication, which is a front company for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). Company director is Major General Herbert Dileboga Mashego, former head of 5 Special Forces until his promotion as the new general officer commanding the SA Army Infantry Division in January 2023.

In court papers, Abdurahim alleges that after Adella paid for his parking ticket, an unidentified man believed to be a Special Forces member paid for parking tickets and exited the Mall of Africa in two of the Peters Communication vehicles – a third Peters Communication vehicle hours after the abduction was seen leaving together with the abductees’ vehicle. No CCTV footage was available showing what happened to Abdella after collecting his parking ticket and no trace of his vehicle has subsequently turned up.

Mashego subsequently admitted in court documents submitted in March that his operators and vehicles were in the shopping centre where the two men disappeared on 29 December, but that they were engaged in a “training exercise” and knew nothing about the kidnapping. Mashego could not divulge further information due to the “sensitivity and confidential nature of the training operations” led by Major Sunnyboy Wambi and his team on 29 December. He acknowledged that Wambi and a colleague returned to the Mall of Africa later in the day “for debriefing”.

“I deny that members of the SANDF abducted Mr Abadiga and Mr Abotese on 29 December 2022 at Mall of Africa. I deny that SANDF arrested and/or detained Mr Abadiga and Mr Abotese. The SANDF has no authority in terms of the constitution of South Africa to affect arrest on civilians,” he stated.

The court accepted the SANDF’s explanation and the case was removed from the urgent roll, although the investigation into the abduction/disappearance continued. Police appointed Lieutenant-Colonel PN ‘Frans’ Mathipa, a member of the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State unit, to investigate.

Mathipa was shot dead on Sunday 6 August whilst on the way to meet with people who may have had information on the abduction, City Press reported. He was shot twice in the head at a meeting place close to the Hammanskraal toll plaza north of Pretoria.

Abdella was in March 2022 placed on the US Treasury Department’s Sanctions List after being suspected of being an Islamic State organiser and financial facilitator, along with three other men residing in South Africa (Siraaj Miller, Peter Charles Mbaga, and Farhad Hoomer).

Abdella was arrested in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017 after apparently trying to travel to Goma in the east of the country to link up with the Alliance for Democratic Change (ADF) fighters. He was returned to South Africa in March 2020.