‘Death squad’ waiting to be arrestedComment on this story
Members of Durban’s Cato Manor organised crime unit, shut down in January amid allegations of death squads, gathered on Tuesday night predicting they were about to be arrested.
The 12 members were given notices threatening suspension six months ago.
Allegations that they operated as a death squad have been under investigation by three teams, including the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
It is understood they received information that they were to be arrested at their homes in a full-scale police operation on Tuesday night. To avoid this they gathered at their office.
The Mercury has been informed that their lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, wrote to Hawks head Anwa Dramat this week saying the men would continue to co-operate with the investigation.
He said there was no need to arrest them because they would hand themselves over. No response was received.
Van der Merwe could not be reached for comment on Tuesday night.
It is believed that the men are considering applying for an urgent court interdict this morning, depending on if they are arrested.
Contacted late on Tuesday night, Hawks spokesman McIntosh Polela said that he was not aware of the possible arrests.
He said that he would have been informed if such arrests were imminent.
The unit, which fell under Hawks head Major-General Johan Booysen, was disbanded after a newspaper alleged that some of the unit’s officers were part of a “death squad” and had been involved in the killings of several suspects.
News coverage of the “death squad” placed the spotlight firmly on Booysen.
Booysen was suspended, but he was reinstated after winning a second legal challenge against his police bosses and Dramat.
Earlier this month, R1.3 million in cash that Booysen alleges was used in an attempt to bribe him was forfeited to the State.
Two men have been charged in connection with this – suspended policeman Navin Madhoe and uMhlanga businessman Thoshan Panday, both of whom are also under investigation in relation to a R60m police contract.
They are alleged to have asked Booysen in August to pre-date a report on the contract probe. This was allegedly with the aim of suppressing evidence.
Earlier in the year, Booysen was accused of displaying pictures of himself at crime scenes or those of dead suspects in police offices. This was heard during the trial of six men charged in connection with three casino heists in 2010.
Colonel Willie Olivier, the unit commander of the disbanded Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit, testified that Booysen would not have allowed this.
The cases were investigated by the unit, which falls under the command of the Hawks.
The men say they were assaulted and that one of them was shot at by Cato Manor unit officers, who forced them to make confessions.
They said they were shown pictures of people reportedly killed by the unit and told that if they did not co-operate, they would also be killed.
It was also alleged that confessions had been taken despite the men’s having been in custody for more than 48 hours without being charged.
At the time the probe was launched, Booysen said the death squad allegations were part of a smear campaign to discredit and oust them. - The Mercury