A detective for 29 years, Moonoo was named divisional commissioner of the detective branch in 2011 by former police commissioner Bheki Cele.
Cele’s successor, Riah Phiyega, described him as the “top detective in the SA Police Service (SAPS)” when she announced that he would replace Warrant Officer Hilton Botha in the Pistorius investigation.
That decision came during Pistorius’s bail hearing when Botha was forced under cross-examination to concede that he had mishandled evidence, and the athlete’s lawyer easily countered his arguments that there was a flight risk.
Botha’s inept performance reportedly prompted seasoned prosecutor Gerrie Nel to joke “there goes my case”, but officially he was replaced because it emerged that Botha faced attempted murder charges for allegedly shooting at a minibus taxi in 2011 while chasing a suspect.
In contrast Moonoo, 53, has a blemish-free reputation and has succeeded in staying off the media radar despite the high voltage coverage of the case against the paralympian charged with killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day last year.
In a rare interview last year, Moonoo said he knew already as a Standard Eight schoolboy that he wanted to become a policeman.
He became a police trainee at Wentworth Police College in 1981 and a volunteer in the local tracing unit the next year.
“In 1982, I volunteered to work in the tracing unit as there were eight cases of housebreaking and theft and theft of vehicles a day in Lenasia. In my first month, we arrested 32 people and the rate of similar incidents dropped to one a week,” he told Independent Newspapers.
Moonoo became a detective only three years after entering college. From 1984 he was stationed in Kliptown, marking the start of a long period working in Soweto where he eventually became area head for detective services.
In 2002, he was appointed to head a division of the organised crime branch and promoted to major general.
Last year, Phiyega named Moonoo to head a special task team to investigate some 250 robberies where the suspects wore police uniforms and used blue-light vehicles.
He is also co-ordinating the investigation of a fatal bomb blast last year at a gold dealership in Bedfordview, Johannesburg, that belonged to controversial Czech businessman Radovan Krejcir.
After it was announced that Moonoo would head the Pistorius investigation, he calmly commented that he considered the case of the decade to be “business as usual”.
He went on to say that the media contingent covering it had been “more persistent than I believe is necessary”, and promised not to allow the scrutiny to compromise the investigation.
The police ministry has declined to release Moonoo’s CV, saying he has specifically asked them not to.
“He says he does not want to be in the media. The case is in the media, but he does not want to be,” a ministerial spokesman said.
The police also refused to say how many “highly-skilled” investigators were helping Moonoo with the case, which will see the State trying to prove that Pistorius had committed premeditated murder when he shot Steenkamp through a bathroom door, killing her.