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Twelve more members of the controversial Durban Organised Crime Unit – Cato Manor, were expected to be arrested on Wednesday.
Two of them were said to be high-ranking officers.
Late Tuesday night more than 15 of them gathered anxiously at the unit’s headquarters in Margaret Mncadi Avenue (Victoria Embankment), waiting for the arrests.
Sources said the members of the alleged death squad were alerted to the swoop after Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigators secured several warrants at the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday afternoon.
The warrants, executed on Wednesday by about 50 Ipid officials and police, were for their arrests and to search their homes, the sources said.
Officers had also been tipped off about the arrival in Durban on Tuesday of a high-level Ipid team, including investigators and legal representatives from Johannesburg.
Sources said members were unclear on Tuesday night exactly who would be arrested on Wednesday morning.
“Everyone gathered from about 9pm, waiting for news about the arrests. But, it has been very quiet.
“Some even went to the extent of sending their wives and children to relatives’ homes to spare them any trauma if investigators decided to search their homes.”
About 20 members were at the offices by 9am on Wednesday, declaring they were ready to hand themselves over without any drama.
Ipid spokesman, Moses Dlamini, confirmed that 12 policemen were to be arrested.
The second swoop came more than two months after 18 of their colleagues were arrested by a national task force.
Sources said more arrests were also imminent of officers in other units such at Metro Police, Tactical Response Team and the Dog Unit.
It was unclear if these would happen on Wednesday.
Dlamini said the latest arrests formed part of the second and third phases of an investigation by Ipid into allegations that the unit had operated as a “hit squad”.
At the centre of the allegations is a DVD that allegedly exposes the systematic killing of suspects in custody.
It supposedly tells of the existence of a death squad in the now disbanded Cato Manor unit.
Dlamini said the latest part of the probe had focused on automatic teller machine bombing and taxi violence-related killings.
Many witnesses are believed to have come forward after the first arrests. An additional 100 charges are expected to be added to the original indictment.
Wednesday’s arrestees were expected to appear in court later, where bail for them was not going to be opposed. After their arrests, they were to be taken first to the police air wing at the old Durban International Airport for processing.
All 30 policemen are expected to face more than 170 charges, including murder, attempted murder, assault, housebreaking with intent to commit murder, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, and malicious damage to property. They are expected to appear together in the Durban Magistrate’s Court again on Friday.
National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman, Natasha Ramkisson, could not confirm the latest developments.
A source said about the policemen who feared they could be arrested, had secured the services of Durban attorney Anand Nepal.
“We find this whole process unnecessary,” some of the policemen said. “Almost two months ago, Nepal sent the acting head of Ipid in KwaZulu-Natal, Glen Angus, a letter offering our full co-operation with the investigation. He said members would not obstruct any searches and would answer any questions they may have. But, once again it seems the investigators are out to publicly humiliate us.”
Last December, soon after the DVD was leaked to the media, Ipid announced a team would review all cases involving the unit.
In June, 18 members of the unit were arrested. More than 200 armed National Intervention Unit police raided colleagues’ homes and arrested them in front of their families.
Major-General Ntebo “Jan” Mabula, head of the Hawks in the North West Province, commanded the operation. He was appointed to probe allegations that members of the Organised Crime Unit – Cato Manor operated as a “hit squad”.
Computers, cellphones, documents and clothing were seized.
A week ago, attorney Carl van der Merwe, representing the 18 initially accused, applied urgently to the Durban High Court for the June search warrants to be overturned.
He challenged the legality of the search and seizure operation. His clients also want the seized items returned to them.
Van der Merwe told the Daily News yesterday the searches had been unlawful. He said they had received no reply to their papers. He said he was unaware of the further arrests and would only be privy to the final indictments on Friday.
In the original indictment, the State alleged that unlicensed guns were planted next to 14 suspects killed in unit operations.
This was allegedly to create the impression that the lives of police making the arrests were in danger, according to a preliminary indictment filed in court.
The 18 accused are Gonasagren Padayachee, Adriaan Stolz, Mossie Mostert, Eric Nel, Neville Eva, Adjith Ghaness, Phumela Makhanya, Willie Olivier, Peter George, Thembinkosi Mkhwanazi, Wilbard Thabete, Enock Mdlalose, Johnny Smith, Jeremy Marten, Shane Naidoo, Raymond Lee, Anton Lockham and Bruce McInnes.