The wife of André Hanekom, the South African man who died in custody in Mozambique last week, received threats that he would be killed at the beginning of January.
Francis Hanekom sent screen grabs of threats received in her Facebook inbox to News24 on Monday.
Hanekom died in police custody ahead of his court appearance on charges of terrorism. His family earlier told News24 they believe he had been poisoned.
Hanekom had been arrested in August last year and shot with an AK-47 assault rifle in what initially appeared to be a kidnapping. He had been in and out of hospital since then and kept in custody, despite two court orders ordering his release.
Francis initially received a comment on Facebook from one “Moz High”, saying: “You may want to check your messages early, your husband’s life depends on it.”
‘You’ll get him in a body bag’
She then received a message in her inbox saying: “So we know your very public display of this has left some very important people sour. You will soon get your husband in a body bag if you don’t do the following.”
The person then asks for 10 Bitcoin (approximately R463 000), threatening to kill André if this demand is not met.
“No matter where you go or what you do, we will kill him…”
Screen grab of threat sent to Francis Hanekom shortly before her husband André’s death. (Facebook)
Francis said she took the threat to an official translator and gave a copy to the police filing a complaint. “It was directed to the highest authority in the province.”
Francis is also in possession of a document of the complaint given to the police. “On the third page at the bottom is the stamp of the police, acknowledging the receipt of the complaint,” Francis said.
She was told it was most probably an opportunist who wanted to gain from the misery of the family.
“[Police] did not investigate or give better protection for André. Today he is not with us anymore,” Francis said.
‘We suspect he was poisoned’
The family has been trying in vain to have André’s remains brought to South Africa for an independent autopsy.
“We suspect he was poisoned,” Hanekom’s daughter Amanda told News24 earlier. “We need to confirm this by having blood tests done, but we first need to recover his remains.”
Amanda said the family feared Mozambique authorities would incinerate ‘s body to “get rid of evidence”.
On Sunday, Francis posted on Facebook: “The Hanekom family appeals to the South African government to allow the body of André to enter to the closest town to the border on the South African side and send a forensic team to do an autopsy on [his remains]. We need a second opinion from our side and would like to ask a private independent forensic pathologist to be part of the team.”
She claimed the Mozambique Medicine Department wanted to change the cause of death on his death certificate. “The document we have received states encephalopathy and hypoxia. Now the claim is made that the doctor used the wrong words, and it should be meningoencephalitis of viral or bacterial origin. Both are contagious. The body must be cremated before he can be removed to South Africa.”
Francis claims the diagnosis was changed to prevent an independent autopsy.
“The South African government has the power to allow André to enter under quarantine conditions to the closest town, for the sake of justice and certainty.
“The embassy had been requested to assist with permissions, but no answer was received yet.”
Hanekom, a business owner from Palma, had lived in Mozambique for 26 years.
Amanda’s sister Andrie previously told Netwerk24 that the family believed that influential people were misusing the Mozambican police, as they wanted to get their hands on Hanekom’s beach property in Palma, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.
Phillip Strydom, the chairperson of the Mozambique Foreign Business Chamber, confirmed the family’s suspicion that Hanekom may have been poisoned.
“We will be writing a letter to the high commissioner to request that Hanekom’s remains be brought to South Africa for an autopsy,” Strydom told News24 on Thursday.
“If he was found to have been poisoned, we will push for this to be investigated by the attorney-general. It could have serious political implications,” Strydom said.
According to Strydom, poisoning is a commonly used method of “getting rid” of people in Mozambique.
Another screen grab of the death threat received by André Hanekom’s wife, Francis. (Facebook)
International Relations and Cooperation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu directed High Commissioner to Mozambique Mandisi Mpahlwa to engage with authorities there to establish the cause of death, News24 reported on Wednesday.
Sisulu requested a feedback report, Department of International Relations and Cooperation (Dirco) spokesperson Ndivhuwo Mabaya said.
‘We are as concerned as the family’ – Dirco
Mabaya told News24 that Dirco would receive a report by the high commissioner in Mozambique on Tuesday. “He said he would send [a report] on the preliminary investigation today [Tuesday].
Mabaya said the high commissioner and law enforcement authorities in Mozambique were busy with their investigations into Hanekom’s death.
“When all of that is completed, we will have a complete report of what happened to Mr Hanekom.”
Mabaya said South Africa was “not in a position to insist” that Hanekom’s remains be brought to this country. “We can only ask. We have conveyed the request of the family to the Mozambican authorities. The high commissioner spent the past three days with the Hanekom family in Maputo, at the embassy, and we have been communicating on their behalf with the Mozambican authorities.”
The decision [to release Hanekom’s remains] rests with Mozambique, Mabaya said. “We are doing everything in our power within the guiding principles.
“We hope that it will be possible to give the family their wish so that they can have closure,” Mabaya said.
Given the allegations and speculation surrounding Hanekom’s death, Sisulu had instructed South African law-enforcement agencies to work with their Mozambican counterparts to verify such, Mabaya told News24.
“What many people don’t know is that [Sisulu] has instructed the National Prosecuting Authority and the Hawks to investigate these allegations.
“We are as concerned as the family,” Mabaya said. “But as government, we cannot speculate.”
Suspected jihadist operative
News24 previously reported that Hanekom and two Tanzanians had been arrested on December 31, and were named by Mozambican authorities as allegedly being part of a jihadist group operating in the region. According to AFP, the group faced charges including murder and crimes against the state.
Allegedly, Hanekom had been responsible for the logistics of the group and was shot while trying to resist arrest in August. Weapons were reportedly found at his home.
Francis has repeatedly denied the allegations.