Days of Zondo

Cuffed with cable ties: Payback for Johan Booysen’s dogged pursuance of high-profile cases

By Jessica Bezuidenhout 18 April 2019
Caption
Former head of the KZN Hawks General Major Johan Booysen during a press conference on November 16, 2017 in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Afriforum announced that they will privately prosecute one of President Jacob Zuma’s insiders, Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba for alleged criminal charges of fraud and perjury and obstruction of justice. (Photo by Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier)

Former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss, Johan Booysen’s arrest over the Cato Manor ‘death squad’ began with a subtle threat from an alleged dirty cop who showed him photographs of dead suspects while unsuccessfully trying to negotiate a R2-million bribe for Booysen to help kill a criminal investigation.

General, we are coming to arrest you. We’ve been ordered to handcuff you,” a member of a police task force told former Hawks boss, Johan Booysen.

Booysen, having agreed to hand himself in, was waiting in his office where the arresting officers would use cable ties to cuff him.

They would ask for his firearm only much later once they arrived at his home to conduct a search. And then, he would be taken to the police’s air wing for further activities, eventually arriving at the Durban North police station once it was way too late to apply for bail.

Like any other criminal suspect, Booysen would have to spend the night in the cells.

Here was KwaZulu-Natal’s top cop being paraded before a media contingent at multiple locations, cameras furiously clicking away while junior police officers had lined up with their cellphone cameras to capture the moment too.

Booysen testified for a second day at the State Capture Commission on Thursday.

His presentation of the evidence – largely relating to interference in sensitive cases – has been detailed and clinical – until the moment of his arrest.

It was impossible not to detect the emotion as he relived the scene before deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo.

There was the cleaning lady at the Hawks office, unaware of what was going on, his family’s domestic worker at home, as usual offering Booysen’s guests a glass of water until she realised what was going on.

He would be slapped with racketeering charges relating to the alleged extra-judicial killings by members Cato Manor, a unit under his command at the time.

When Booysen eventually got hold of 23 dockets containing large volumes of information and statements, his name appeared nowhere but in three of the statements.

One from a policeman who had spotted Booysen on the scene after one of the shootings had happened, another, from a crew member of the police’s air wing who had picked him up to fly him to the scene of a second, and a third by an IPID official who had mentioned spotting Booysen on the scene of a shooting, some five hours after it happened.

Booysen eventually took the decision to charge him on review and succeeded when the High Court found that there was no rational, legal basis for the charges against him.

His earlier testimony has been predominantly focused on a string of high-profile cases during which there had been high-level interference. They include the case of wealthy Durban businessman, Thoshan Panday, who was investigated in connection with a R60-million deal with SAPS.

This 2010 case marked the beginning of drawn-out efforts to shaft Booysen and had the former provincial police commissioner Mmamonye Ngobeni order him, several times, to drop the investigation.

It would later result in an intervention from the NPA’s headquarters in Pretoria when Panday’s co-accused, Colonel Navin Madhoe, pleaded his case with then head of the NPA’s Commercial Crimes Unit, advocate Lawrence Mrwebi.

Mrwebi, allegedly irregularly, took it upon himself to enquire with the prosecutor in the case in KwaZulu Natal, and seemingly agreed with Madhoe that there were sinister motives with the case against him.

The prosecutor, Bheki Nyathi, sent Mrwebi an eight-page memo explaining there was “overwhelming” evidence and recommended a High Court indictment of both Panday and Modhoe.

Nyathi would later leave the NPA for private practice, allegedly because he had been overlooked for a promotion.

Then, despite a rock-solid docket being produced in the Panday case, a new head of the National Prosecuting Authority in KwaZulu-Natal, Moipone Noko, would later announce the withdrawal of the charges.

This was despite the Panday docket containing physical evidence, interceptions, eye witness statements, fingerprints and bank statements. The evidence was overwhelming, yet the charges were withdrawn by Noko, ostensibly, “in the interest of justice”.

Booysen also testified to what appears to have been active or deliberate efforts to frustrate an investigation into the Crime Intelligence Secret Service Account. This case implicated among others, former divisional commissioner of Crime Intelligence, Richard Mdluli.

In two instances, the docket would be taken away from Booysen’s friend and colleague, Sam Madonsela. First, it was sent to the Inspector General where seemingly no work was done on it.

Next, having been snookered, right on the steps outside court, from obtaining subpoenas for Crime Intelligence records, Madonsela would be ordered to hand the entire docket over.

This time, allegedly at the instruction of then National Police Commissioner, Riyah Phiyega.

When Booysen later got sight of the docket, he realised it had substantially reduced in size and importantly, all statements allegedly incriminating Mdluli and other policemen, had been removed. Fortunately, Booysen had kept notes when he first perused Madonsela’s docket and could now hand a proper bundle to Robert McBride, executive director of the Independent Police Investigating Directorate (IPID), who then faced his own hurdles over various sensitive investigations.

The Secret Service account investigation, Booysen said, also covered the alleged irregular spending of R198,000 on a fence at the private home of former police minister, Nathi Mthethwa. Members of the executive are entitled to security upgrades at their homes, but not from the Secret Service account, Booysen said.

Another case the powers that be were incredibly touchy about is that commonly labelled the “Amigos” case, a fraud investigation involving the acquisition of water purification plants for hospitals.

There were several prominent accused, including foreign businessman, Gaston Savoi, and KwaZulu Natal politicians, Peggy Nkonyeni and Mike Mabuyakhulu.

Booysen testified that the initial investigating officer, Lt Col Piet du Plooy had reported to him that he had been put under pressure to withdraw the case against Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu.

He assured me the case was solid.”

In this case, again, Mrwebi from the NPA and another controversial prosecutor, Anthony Mosing, called Du Plooy and a forensic investigator to Pretoria.

Booysen testified that upon their return, he detected that Du Plooy was unhappy.

During that meeting with Mrwebi and Mosing, they were allegedly told there was no evidence against the two politicians.

This little development also coincided with Noko’s arrival as the provincial head of the NPA.

Noko, Booysen testified, would somehow manage to study the voluminous docket in a record amount of time and announce that she was withdrawing the charges against Nkonyeni and Mabuyakhulu a mere two weeks into the job.

Booysen said he had been told by the investigator that the docket was so thick that getting through it would have been like reading the Bible 14 times.

The Commission goes into a short break until 2 May when Booysen returns to the witness box. DM

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