The 28-year-old De Necker van Schalkwyk. Photo Facebook.
Date: 17 November 2023 By: Anton van Zyl
Some startling revelations emerged during the bail application of the suspect charged with the murder of 28-year-old De Necker van Schalkwyk. Van Schalkwyk’s body was found on 11 October this year next to a road that leads through a nature reserve in Hermanus in the Western Cape.
During the bail hearing that started on Friday (10th) and continued on Monday in the Hermanus Magistrate’s Court, different versions of what had happened on 10 October were presented. The possibility that Van Schalkwyk could have arranged his own death was also put forth. The court was told that a lot of money was at stake, with an estimated R128 million invested in Van Schalkwyk’s get-rich-quick scheme.
Van Schalkwyk, originally from Louis Trichardt, made headlines earlier this year when the Zoutpansberger reported on his investment scheme, promising returns of between 10 and 12% per month. Many investors were from the region. Van Schalkwyk was not registered as a financial advisor, and the scheme was not operated through a registered investment company. At the end of 2022, Van Schalkwyk relocated to Hermanus.
Shortly before his death, Van Schalkwyk informed investors that he intended to stop his investment scheme until he had the proper registrations in place. He also assured investors that he would repay their money. In some cases, investors got their money back, but in many others, all payments - including “interest” - simply stopped.
Three suspects were arrested in Hermanus on 11 October, the same day Van Schalkwyk’s body was found. Sandile Lumatha (40) was charged with murder, while Michael Kwaki (36) and Simnikiwe Siyabonga Ntonga (37) were charged with the possession of stolen property and the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. Kwaki and Ntonga appeared in court on 1 November and were granted R500 bail each. They need to appear in court again on 29 November.
Monday’s hearing, during which Lumatha asked to be released on bail, was attended by Bianca du Plessis, a reporter for the local Hermanus Times. In her report, which appeared on Wednesday, she mentions that Lumatha had initially confessed to the murder. Warrant Officer Leon van Wyk testified in court that Lumatha had been arrested after an informer had told the police that she had seen the accused with a lot of money and a firearm. “He allegedly informed her it was the gun that had been used in the murder on Rotary Way,” the article reads.
When Lumatha was arrested, however, no money was found with him. He led them to the other two accused, who were found in possession of the 9mm pistol and its magazine.
The court heard that in Lumatha’s initial confession he had stated that Van Schalkwyk had ordered him to shoot him. Lumatha made this confession shortly after being arrested.
But after a few weeks spent in jail, Lumatha’s story started to change. During his bail application, he testified that he had worked for Van Schalkwyk for about two weeks as a gardener. On the afternoon of 10 October, he and Van Schalkwyk drove off to find some other workers. They then picked up another man, but this person later grabbed Van Schalkwyk’s firearm and ordered him to drive up Rotary Way. Lumatha told the court that the man then robbed them and shot Van Schalkwyk.
“According to Lumatha, this man gave him money and Van Schalkwyk’s cellphone and threatened him to keep quiet about the incident,” writes Du Plessis in her article.
State prosecutor Kelsey Fortuin asked Lumatha during cross-examination why his version of events had suddenly changed. He responded by saying that he had made the confession because he feared the “real killer”. The investigating officer, W/O Van Wyk, testified that CCTV footage obtained showed that only two men, Van Schalkwyk and Lumatha, were in the vehicle.
Van Wyk told the court that the accused had admitted that he had shot Van Schalkwyk but had told the police that he no longer had the firearm in his possession because two men had stolen it. Lumatha told the police that the pistol’s magazine had fallen out during their struggle, which explained why the firearm was found in one suspect’s possession and the magazine in the other’s.
Van Wyk told the court that they were waiting for the results of tests conducted on the blood reportedly found on the accused’s clothes.
The state is opposing bail, arguing that Lumatha poses a flight risk. He has several previous convictions, including escaping from custody. He also has an outstanding warrant of arrest on a charge of burglary.
Another reason why the state is opposing bail, the court was told, is because a lot of money is at stake. Van Wyk mentioned the figure of R128 million, which is possibly a reflection on Van Schalkwyk’s investment scheme. Further testimony was provided that Van Schalkwyk took out a life policy valued at R98 million. Should Van Schalkwyk’s death be the result of suicide or assisted suicide, only R2 million will be paid out.
The bail application was set to continue on Wednesday, 15 November.
Anton van Zyl has been with the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror since 1990. He graduated from the Rand Afrikaans University (now University of Johannesburg) and obtained a BA Communications degree. He is a founder member of the Association of Independent Publishers.