Durban - “He was a true anchor for his family and friends”.
That was Sujit Ghaness speaking on Friday about his brother and former Durban Organised Crime Unit member, Ajith Ghaness, 48, who died on Thursday from multiple organ failure.
Ghaness leaves his wife, Rekha, and teenage son, Akshay.
Just the day before, charges against the former members of the Cato Manor-based unit were withdrawn in the Durban High Court.
In 2012, Ajith Ghaness was part of the team of experienced detectives who had their homes raided and were arrested on 116 charges. They were dubbed “the Death Squad” by the Sunday Times in a now infamous discredited front page story for which the publication has since apologised.
The withdrawal of charges this week saw an end to the seven-year ordeal which took a heavy toll on the team of arrested officers.
Since that time three other members have died: Captain Neville Eva, Lieutenant Mhlabunzima Thabethe and Captain Vincent Auerbach.
Sujit, who flew in from Dubai on Friday, said he called Ajith in hospital on Wednesday after he learnt the charges were dropped.
“Ajith had got the news about the charges being dropped, he was very happy,” said Sujit, adding that his brother’s health had been affected from the time the team was arrested.
“It was the stress of it all, his health deteriorated and he spiralled downwards. Since then, there was also a lot of pressure on his immediate family.
“We as a family want some justice to come out of this,” he said.
Sujit described his older brother as “very strong and loved by everyone who knew him”.
“He was a man who was there for his friends in their darkest hour.
“He was someone you could count on and if he gave you his word, you could count on it.
“He was a true anchor for his family and friends.”
On Wednesday a joint media statement was issued by members of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, members of the National Intervention Unit, Durban, and former organised crime unit head, Johan Booysen, which noted that July 17 marked seven years since the arrest of their members.
“Today charges were withdrawn against the members.
“The new NDPP (National Director of Public Prosecutions) advocate Shamila Batohi has issued a statement that racketeering charges are to be withdrawn and that the rest of the charges will be reviewed by the DPP in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The arrests were executed in a cavalier fashion without the members being given an opportunity to state their respective version of events.
“The arrested members were paraded before the media and detained in police cells with common criminals.
“During the seven years since the arrests, the members were subjected to suspensions, humiliation and disciplinary proceedings,” the statement said.