KWAZULU-NATAL

Cato Manor ‘death squad’ charges dropped

By Greg Nicolson 17 July 2019

Archive Photo: General Johan Booysen former head of Hawks in KwaZulu Natal at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture in Parktown, Johannesburg, 16 April 2019. Photo: Felix Dlangamandla/Netwerk24/Gallo

Racketeering and murder charges against the so-called Cato Manor 'death squad' were dropped in the Durban High Court on Wednesday. The accused cops claim the prosecution was aimed at protecting compromised politicians.

SAPS members from the Cato Manor and Port Shepstone organised crime units and National Intervention Unit have vowed to continue defending themselves if charges related to the alleged extra-judicial killing of 45 people in KwaZulu-Natal are levelled against individual officers.

Charges of murder, racketeering and robbery were dropped against the group of 27 officers in the Durban High Court on Wednesday in the so-called Cato Manor “death squad” case, which has been tainted by allegations of political influence in prosecutorial decisions.

During the seven years since the arrests, the members were subjected to suspensions, humiliation and disciplinary proceedings,” said a joint statement from the 27 officers on Wednesday.

The officers maintained that the prosecutions were authorised first by acting NPA boss Nomgcobo Jiba in 2012 and again by NPA head Shaun Abrahams in 2016 because police and prosecutors aimed “to protect their political puppet masters from prosecutions themselves”.

Collectively the group faced 116 charges. They were arrested following Sunday Times reports on the alleged extra-judicial killings, which the newspaper has since apologised for. Three members of the group died while the case was repeatedly postponed.

NPA boss Shamila Batohi announced last week that charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen had been withdrawn, but said the provincial NPA would consider charging members of the unit individually for the crimes.

We maintain that we are innocent and that the charges lack substance. If any of the other charges which were fraudulently formulated by the advocates mentioned above and that was [sic] withdrawn here today are resurrected by the KZN [director of public prosecutions], we will defend ourselves in the courts,” the group said on Wednesday.

They claimed the people killed were not victims but hardened criminals involved in crimes such as murder, ATM bombing, robbery and hijacking.

While the loss of any life ought to be lamented, the loss of life by these criminals were [sic] of their own doing. In our view they were wanted criminals who have made themselves guilty of the most heinous crimes imaginable,” the officers continued.

The real victims of this sordid saga are the public who were deprived of dedicated and skilled detectives for seven years and who had to endure the increase in violent crimes in KZN during this period and also those who died at the hands of the criminals detailed at the end of this briefing.”

Booysen told the State Capture Commission of Inquiry in April 2019 how he and the officers were targeted because he refused to scrap investigations into politically-connected characters.

The charges allegedly stem from an investigation into Durban businessman Thoshan Panday, accused of scoring R60-million in irregular and lucrative SAPS tenders.

Former provincial police commissioner Mmamonnye Ngobeni told Booysen to drop the case and a fellow cop requested that Booysen alter documents to protect Panday.

Booysen was allegedly threatened with the exposure of the “death squad” if he didn’t comply.

After a R15-million payment to Panday’s company was frozen amid the corruption investigation, former president Jacob Zuma’s son Edward Zuma requested Booysen released the funds to his supposed business partner.

The group was arrested after Booysen refused to comply. North West deputy provincial commissioner Jan Mabula led the operation against the Cato Manor group.

We thank the overwhelming majority of the public who knew that our persecution was driven by a cabal from the NPA and Major General Jan Mabula in order to protect their political puppet masters from prosecutions themselves,” the officers said on Wednesday.

They said the NPA members who led the prosecutions against them and brought the organisation into disrepute while they committed crimes to justify the case must be held accountable. DM

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