Public are the real victims of 'death squad' saga and political puppeteering
After seven years, it took less than five minutes for Durban high court judge Kate Pillay to pronounce that all charges were withdrawn against the 27 remaining accused in the so-called Cato Manor death squad case and that they were free to go.
Outside, the men, some of them teary-eyed, hugged each other and then stood proudly behind now-retired KZN Hawks head Gen Johan Booysen as a statement was read out on their behalf.
“The prosecution team maintained that members (of the Cato Manor unit) committed extra-judicial killings and portrayed those who were killed by the police during shootouts as ‘victims’,” they said.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. While any loss of life is lamentable, in these cases, the loss of life was of their own doing. They were wanted criminals. What was never said was that the unit was responsible for the arrests of 400 hardened criminals.”
They said the “real victims of this sorry saga” were the public, who were deprived of dedicated and skilled detectives while under siege by criminals.
They said in the seven years since their arrests, they had been subjected to suspensions, humiliation and disciplinary proceedings which resulted in their exoneration.
Criminal charges were now being investigated against some of those who “persecuted them”, including advocates Nomgcobo Jiba and Shaun Abrahams, who signed off on the racketeering charges, and members of the prosecution team.
In an interview, Booysen repeated what he had testified to at both the Zondo commission into state capture and the Mokgoro inquiry into the fitness of advocates Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi to hold office - that he was the target because of investigations being conducted into politically connected people, and that the unit’s members were “collateral damage”.
Asked if he felt relieved, he said: "In a way I feel angry at the way the prosecutors and Gen Jan Mabula, from North West detectives (who headed the police investigation), protected their political masters."
While the present indictment, which contained 116 charges under the racketeering “blanket” is now in the bin, national director of public prosecutions Shamila Batohi has said the individual dockets will be reviewed by the acting provincial director of public prosecutions, advocate Elaine Zungu.
Booysen said this should have happened right from the start because, “the cabal from Pretoria” had hijacked the provincial office's authority.
He said: “I have been informed all the charges against myself are withdrawn indefinitely. With regards to the other guys, I have studied all these dockets and the evidence in them and I am confident that ultimately they will all be exonerated.”