9 mysterious cases of intimidation and stolen information

Johannesburg – There have been several suspicious high-level break-ins around the country in the past seven years with some cases remaining unsolved.

The glaring similarity in most of the cases is that the thieves left behind valuable items and instead took documents, laptops and computers containing sensitive and confidential information.

Foundations, attorneys, journalists and most recently, judges have experienced these ominous burglaries where their information was taken from either their homes or offices.

1. Offices of the Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng robbed

2017: On Saturday, robbers broke into the Offices of the Chief Justice in Midrand.

The thieves allegedly proceeded directly to the first floor where the human resources department is located. They stole 15 computers which contained important and sensitive information about judges in South Africa and officials in the office of the Chief Justice, the Constitutional Court, high courts, Supreme Court of Appeal and other specialist courts.

A special multidisciplinary police team, led by Gauteng's deputy provincial commissioner of crime detection General Mary Motsepe, has been established to investigate the matter.

The robbery took place a day after the High Court in Pretoria ruled that Hawks boss Berning Ntlemeza's appointment was unlawful and invalid.

The Constitutional Court on the same day ruled that Cash Paymaster Services should continue distributing social grants for a year, after the South African Social Security Agency was unable to insources the service.

2. Files stolen from High Court Judge Mabel Jansen's home

2016: Robbers broke into High Court Judge Mabel Jansen's Pretoria home and demanded court files. The men forced open an exterior door and held Jansen's long-serving domestic worker at gunpoint, and demanded the files.

Jansen, who was not home on the day, was at the time working on high-profile court cases. One of the cases she was working on involved the dispute between the South African Revenue Service and EFF leader Julius Malema.

3. Files stolen from the Helen Suzman Foundation

2016: A group of armed robbers stormed into the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) offices in Johannesburg. The group held up an unarmed security guard at the entrance to the premises in Parktown and went directly for the HSF offices.

After forcing the guard to open the gate, the robbers drove their vehicle into the basement of the building, where they knew there was a lift to the second floor. Other businesses were not robbed and nothing valuable was taken besides computers.

It was suspected that the robbery was linked to the fact that HSF had interdicted Hawks head Major General Berning Ntlemeza from exercising his powers, pending a review of the processes leading to his appointment.

On Friday the High Court in Pretoria set aside Ntlemeza's appointment. Police Minister Nathi Nhleko intends appealing the decision.

4. Home of legal advisor investigating South African banks burgled, files taken

2012: Midrand legal advisor Raymond Dicks was reportedly working on an investigation around transparency in the banking sector when his home was burgled.

The legal advisor to the group NewERA (New Economic Rights Alliance) had apparently launched a court case at the Constitutional Court against four major local banks and the SA Reserve Bank. He reportedly wanted "to expose their illegal activities".

A group of armed men stormed his home and stole files. They were reportedly assisted by members of the police.

5. Hennie Van Vuuren's office break-in

2012: The office of Hennie Van Vuuren, a fellow at the Open Society Foundation for SA at the time, was reportedly burgled twice.

He was working on a manuscript dealing with the arms deal at the time of the thefts, he told the media. He had written an opinion piece for the Mail & Guardian that there appeared to be a climate of fear in South Africa, with many examples of intimidation.

He told the media he had no doubt the two robberies in his office in Cape Town were for the sole reason of stealing information. He had noticed that papers had been looked through and his computer and hard drive were taken but keyboards and flat screen televisions in his office were reportedly not touched.

6. Former police commission board member robbed  

2012: A member of the board of inquiry that was investigating then national police commissioner Bheki Cele was reportedly robbed by men using R5 assault rifles. During the robbery only laptops and keys were reportedly the only items taken. The weapons were reportedly the same rifle type as that stolen from a safe at Air Force Base Waterkloof.

7. DA's Glynnis Breytenbach's mysterious shooting incident

2012: The DA's Glynnis Breytenbach was reportedly shot at on the N14 highway. Breytenbach told the media that two BMW motorcycles had tried to force her off the road. At the time she was working on fraud charges against former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli.

8. Noseweek burglary

2012: The Noseweek offices were broken into and fairly old computers were taken, the editor of the magazine Martin Welz was reported to have said. At the time he said he was not sure whether or not the incident was isolated or an attempt to find information on stories his newsroom was working on.

9. Documents stolen from Muzi Sikhakhane's home

2012: Documents were stolen from the home of Muzi Sikhakhane, the legal representative of Julius Malema and Tokyo Sexwale, it was reported. Several weeks after the robbery, he apparently heard similar stories from other attorneys.