KZN Violence Monitor concerned over Cato Manor ‘Death Squad’ murder acquittal

Kwazi Ndlovu, 16, was shot while asleep in 2010. A warrant officer who had been attached to the Durban Organised Crime Unit, previously known as the Cato Manor ‘Death Squad’, was acquitted of his muder. | Supplied

Kwazi Ndlovu, 16, was shot while asleep in 2010. A warrant officer who had been attached to the Durban Organised Crime Unit, previously known as the Cato Manor ‘Death Squad’, was acquitted of his muder. | Supplied

Published Jul 1, 2024


Durban — KwaZulu-Natal violence monitor, Mary De Haas has slammed the acquittal of a murder accused warrant officer, who had been attached to the controversial Durban Organised Crime Unit, also known as the Cato Manor “Death Squad”.

Warrant Officer Gonasagren Padayachee was found not guilty of the 2010 murder of 16-year-old Kwazi Ndlovu.

The teen was shot and killed while asleep on a sofa in the lounge of his Esikhawini home after members of the unit burst into his home and fired shots. The unit had been searching for an escaped Westville prisoner.

Members claimed the teen had a gun. However, his parents testified that the gun had been planted at the scene as no one in the household owned a firearm.

By 2023, Padayachee had become a Detective Warrant Officer with the Hawks.

He is no stranger to the dock.

In 2012, he was among 27 officers, mostly former members of the disbanded Organised Crime Unit, Cato Manor, appearing in court for 116 charges involving 45 murders, among other alleged crimes.

The charges were withdrawn some years later, but in 2016, former National Prosecuting Authority head, Shaun Abrahams reinstated these. In 2019 his successor, Shamila Batohi, withdrew the charges following an internal investigation by a review panel.

Reacting to Padyachee’s acquittal, De Haas, said:“The parents have struggled for justice for 14 years and, when the case was finally heard in the Durban magistrate’s court earlier this month, the deliberate omission of crucial ballistics and forensics evidence, and the failure to call and cross-examine police members who were at the scene, smacks of a deliberate cover-up. Only one member was charged, despite those present having clearly acted in common purpose.”

She explained that initially, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) declined to prosecute anyone for Kwazi’s killing, and Advocate Robin Palmer, then running the School of Practical Legal Training at the University of KZN, planned a private prosecution (an independent report by the late Frank Dutton, Chief Goldstone, and Zondo Commission investigator details why they should have been prosecuted soon after the death).

“To that end, a copy of the police docket was procured (it disappeared soon afterwards) and money was raised for lawyers. An independent reconstruction of the crime scene, using the couch the boy was lying on, by ballistics expert Cobus Steyl and pathologist Dr Steve Naidoo was carried out.

“This crucial evidence, challenging the police narrative, was not used by the state prosecutor, despite a plea to him and his superiors to do so, and nor was any of the earlier ballistics evidence.”

De Haas said three years of appeal to the National DPP to prosecute this matter followed, and the reports of Frank Dutton and the ballistics and forensics experts were sent together with the correspondence appealing for the culprits to be prosecuted.

“There was continuing stalling, and – despite the existence of damning evidence – an attempt was made to get the parents to agree to an inquest being held. Lobbying management continued and in 2023, the NDPP agreed to prosecute – but only one person, instead of the group who participated collectively in the killing.

“The trial that was to follow was a farce and might just as well not have happened, serving only to traumatise the parents further especially as they had to travel daily, from the north coast, the pretext being there were more experienced magistrates in Durban – but the presiding magistrate was a District Court one who was only acting,” De Haas said.

WhatsApp your views on this story at 071 485 7995.

Daily News