Durban - The NPA will ask the police to reach a decision on paying the legal bills of 28 officers who face a string of charges, ranging from murder to racketeering.

This emerged during Tuesday's brief Durban High Court appearance of the 28 members of the Cato Manor branch of the now disbanded Durban Organised Crime Unit.

It had been expected that a trial date would be set, but prosecutor Sello Maema told the court an adjournment was needed for the “finalisation of the issue of legal representation”.

The 28, accused of operating as death squad from the Cato Manor police station in Durban, face more than 70 charges, including racketeering, murder, and attempted murder.

They allegedly operated as an enterprise under KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Johan Booysen's command, and allegedly obtained financial benefit from associations, businesses and individuals in conflict with the people the officers are accused of killing.

Sello said the State also needed to finalise the disclosure of documents to the men's lawyers. The case was postponed to May 9.

National Prosecuting Authority spokeswoman Natasha Ramkisson said after the appearance the men had applied to the SA Police Service for legal assistance.

“It's not that the NPA is going to help these men get assistance. They have applied to the management (of SAPS) and the NPA will ask that a decision is made either way, so that this case can proceed,” she said.

The policemen were arrested during August and June last year. They were served with suspension notices at the end of August, pending disciplinary procedures. They were ordered to surrender their passports and their police cellphone pin codes to investigators.

Originally 30 officers were arrested last year, but two of the officers, captains Vincent Auerbach and Neville Eva, had since died. - Sapa