Case against Cato cops ready

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iol news pic Cato Manor Cops bailed aug 22 INLSA File poto: Some of the Cato Manor organised crime unit members, as they were leaving a police station after being arrested earlier this year. Picture:Sandile Ndlovu

Durban - Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigators are ready to take 30 Durban policemen to trial for murder and multiple other charges, believing they have a powerful case against them.

Ipid spokesman, Moses Dlamini, said the probe into the alleged hit squad activities of the disbanded Durban Organised Crime Unit – Cato Manor was ready for trial.

“The indictments are completed and tomorrow we hope to secure a high court date for the trial. We have a very, very strong case.”

This morning, regional magistrate Delia Turner granted the arrested officers, including KZN Hawks boss, Johan Booysen, R5 000 bail. The State did not oppose bail.

As part of his bail conditions Booysen was ordered to hand over his cellphone and passport to the investigating officer.

Defence advocate Carl van der Merwe told the court that affidavits had been prepared and handed in to court.

The case against these accused will be joined to that of the other 28 members who were arrested last month.

Most of the members of the disbanded Durban Organised Crime Unit who were granted bail last month, showed their support, along with friends and family members in the courtroom.

Moses said that no further arrests were expected. “There were other cases but unfortunately the evidence was not strong enough to warrant any arrests.”

Booysen’s direct responsibility for the unit led to his arrest. He is thus facing allegations of racketeering. He was arrested at his offices at police provincial headquarters in Bram Fischer Road at midday yesterday, by senior national task force officers and two Ipid investigators.

Speaking to the Daily News seconds before it happened, he said he was confident of a fair court process and would co-operate fully with the investigation.

A source who was present when Booysen received the call from an Ipid colonel, telling him he was going to be arrested, said he remained calm and pledged full co-operation.

He was questioned in a police boardroom for over an hour before he was taken to his house in Amanzimtoti, which was searched.

Sources said investigators seized two DVDs titled Durban Organised Crime Unit, a memory card and his State firearm.

The arresting officers had only realised at this point that Booysen had been carrying his gun for more than two hours after they had arrested him. His hands were then cable-tied and he was taken to the police air wing at the old Durban International Aiport to be processed.

While all the other members had been paraded in front of the media, Booysen was transported in an Audi with tinted windows. He was taken in through a back entrance to the air wing building.

Task force members prevented the media from following the Audi.

Nine other members handed themselves to Ipid at the Durban police air wing from 11am.

The suspects’ commander, Colonel AK Hoosen, had been informed of the arrests at about 10am. He was told to inform them to surrender themselves to police.

They included captains Vincent Auerbach, Shane Smith, Eugene van Tonder, Nico Crouse, Lieutenant Mukesh Panday, warrant officers Ashogan Pillay, B Zondi, M Dlamuka (of the National Intervention Unit) and an unamed officer.

Two others were arrested while undergoing police training in Pretoria and North West province.

All 12 spent the night at the Durban North police station cells after they failed to secure an after-hours bail application.

All 12 suspects, with their 18 co-accused, who were arrested in June, are scheduled to appear in court again tomorrow.

Dlamini said among the new cases that the men were being charged for was the murder of taxi boss, Bongani Mkhize, shot dead by unit members in February 2009 while driving along Umgeni Road, Durban. Police had said at the time that Mkhize shot at them and they returned fire.

In March, former acting police commissioner, Major-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, visited Mkhize’s family days after they launched a R2.3 million law suit against the police for damages.

He promised them a full investigation.

Police alleged that Mkhize had been linked to the murder of traditional leader Mbongeleni Zondi, 37, head of the Zondi clan, who was killed in uMlazi in 2009.

Mkhize's murder came three months after he made a high court application, calling for police not to kill him. He said he was being sought by the Durban organised crime unit in connection with the murder of Kranskop policeman, Zethembe Chonco. - Daily News


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