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Durban - “I am innocent. I have nothing to hide,” said KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen, back on duty less than four hours after he was freed on R5 000 bail.
Speaking to the Daily News from his offices at the police headquarters in Bram Fischer (Ordnance) Road, he described his arrest and being locked in a cell in connection with police “death squad” allegations as heavy-handed and unnecessary.
Booysen said: “I had been made aware that there had been efforts to secure a warrant of arrest for me from as early as June.
“At the time and on more than one occasion, I indicated to the investigating team verbally and in writing, that I would hand myself over to them at any place of their choice. My attorney, Carl van der Merwe, had also communicated the same to them.
“I had also instructed the unit commander of Durban Organised Crime Unit, Colonel AK Hoosen, to give the investigators whatever they needed – be it computers, guns, cellphones or documents. I am innocent. I have nothing to hide.”
Booysen said since his arrest he had had no communication with national Hawks head, Lieutenant-General Anwar Dramat.
“We have not spoken. When I was informed of my arrest, I immediately contacted the provincial commissioner, Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni. She seemed shocked at the news. In fact, at first she thought I was joking.”
When asked if he believed there was a plot to oust him as Hawks boss, Booysen said he did not believe so.
He also dismissed claims that he was being targeted because he was considered an ally of sacked national commissioner Bheki Cele.
“I have no idea where this story comes from about me being an ally of Bheki Cele. I am a professional policeman and there was a time when Bheki Cele was my boss.
“I respected him in that position, like I do the new national commissioner, Riah Phiyega. I have no allegiance or obligation to any individual, only to the police service.”
An amused Booysen, a policeman for more than 36 years, said he never expected this: “I have locked so many criminals behind bars. I never expected to get locked up myself.
“While it was degrading, the management at the Durban North police station treated me with dignity and respect. I appreciate that.
“The cell was not overcrowded. I shared it with a few of my colleagues. But, I slept on the floor on a thin mattress, covered in newspaper. There were no special favours.
“Thankfully, my brother brought me a blanket. Once I settled down, I had a good night’s sleep. It was not pleasant being locked up, but I would make the same sacrifice again.
“I am innocent and I will stand for what I believe in.”
Booysen said he was warmed by the goodwill of policemen and civilians who turned up in their numbers at the cells on Wednesday night.
“People were there to offer us support and feed us. We had a choice from Nando’s to KFC and even Chinese food. The goodwill was amazing.
“In fact, policemen whom I had never met in my life, were full of praise and said they wished they could serve under my command. That spoke volumes for me.
“I don’t need to clear my name. In the eyes of many people, people I meet at church, in the gym and on the street, I am a credible person. My name has not been tarnished.
“At this stage, the only person who can discredit me is a presiding officer in a court of law. I have full faith in our justice system.”
He said even in court yesterday, members of the national task team chatted to him and some even apologised for having to arrest him.
“I told them I had no hard feelings. I understood they were just doing their job.”
Late Thursday afternoon, the prosecuting team handed Van der Merwe copies of the indictment to be presented in court today.
Perusing the document on Friday night, Booysen confirmed he had been charged with racketeering.
“It reads I have been charged with racketeering while managing an enterprise. The indictment states I ought to have known that members under my commanded had been committing offences.
“To me, this is devoid of any substance and I will defend it in court.”
He said the indictment had a list of more than 200 witnesses including pathologists, Ipid investigators and ballistics experts.
Former unit commander of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, Colonel Rajen Iyer, who many speculated would be a key state witness, was not on the list.
Booysen said his arrest had taken the greatest toll on his family, especially his three adult children.
“My kids are distraught. In fact, this was supposed to be a happy time for us. Last week, my 27-year-old daughter’s boyfriend proposed to her.
“Instead of being excited about planning her wedding, she now has this hanging over her head. I also have four grandchildren. This publicity is not good for them either.
“I am 55 and have five more years before I retire.
“I refuse to let this debacle tarnish my image. I am still proud to be a policeman. I will retire with my head held high.”