Hawks head Booysen arrested

Major-General Johan Booysen, right, in dark suit, is led out of the SAPS's Air Wing buildings. Picture: Tania Broughton

Major-General Johan Booysen, right, in dark suit, is led out of the SAPS's Air Wing buildings. Picture: Tania Broughton

Published Aug 23, 2012


Hawks provincial head Major-General Johan Booysen spent last night in custody at the Durban North police cells after being arrested at his office earlier.

He was charged with “racketeering” and other crimes relating to allegations that a death squad operated from the now disbanded Cato Manor serious and violent crime unit.

Booysens, 60, relayed a message to The Mercury saying he was in “high spirits” and strongly believed in his innocence.

He said the charge against him related to the alleged crimes committed by the unit which he “ought to have had knowledge of”.

Booysen – a career police officer with 34 years’ experience – was arrested with six other members of the unit, another senior police officer from the South Coast, two local National Intervention Unit members and two others in other provinces in what Independent Police Investigative Directorate spokesman Moses Dlamini said was the “conclusion” of the investigation into the unit’s alleged unlawful activities.

They were expected to appear in court this morning to apply for bail. They will appear again tomorrow along with 18 other members of the unit who were arrested in June.

Dlamini said they would be served with a final indictment detailing more than 100 charges which they would have to answer to at trial in the high court.

While members of the unit had been tipped off about further arrests, it was not known that Booysen was a target of yesterday’s swoop by the directorate which had been investigating the “death squad” allegations with the Hawks since last year.

Although he was threatened with suspension in March, relating to allegations of “failing to act on information” about alleged excessive force in the shooting of taxi boss Bongani Mkhize, this was later dropped.

Booysen has previously said the threat to suspend him was linked to a conspiracy to remove him from his post by criminal elements.

Yesterday morning Booysen, wearing a dark blue suit, had a brief meeting with members of the unit. He then went to his office where he was told by his lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, that he was about to be arrested.

A Colonel Ngcube, assisted by an unnamed sergeant, arrested him at his office at police headquarters and he was taken away through a back exit to avoid the media gathered outside.

He was taken to his eManzimtoti home where officers searched and seized items, including a gun and computer hard drive, which they took away in clear plastic bags.

The Mercury was told that it was only at his home that officers asked Booysen if he was carrying his gun and he showed them it was holstered to his leg.

He was then taken to the SAPS Air Wing base where he was fingerprinted.

Members of the unit arrested yesterday were requested earlier to present themselves at the base but were taken out of handcuffs in front of the media to go to their homes for searches.

Among them were Captain Shane Smith – dubbed “the preacher” because of his strong religious beliefs – Lieutenant Mukesh Panday, Captain Eugene (WP) van Tonder (who has left the police force), Captain Vincent Auerbach, Warrant Officer Ashogan Pillay, Warrant Officer B Zondi and Captain Nico Crouse, who is attached to the serious and violent crime unit in Port Shepstone.

While the investigative directorate’s Dlamini told the media that the State would not oppose bail and the men would be taken to court where “they can apply for bail if they want to”, this did not happen because the searches and processing took too long.

Their lawyers also took a decision against going to the high court seeking an order compelling a magistrate to hear the matter because of practicalities.

Instead, they were taken to the Durban North police cells where colleagues, family and friends went to give them blankets and food last night.

The other 18 members of the unit face 71 charges including 14 of “death squad” murders. Dlamini said that all of those arrested would face a total of 100 charges.

The new charges included the racketeering charge – the State alleges they ran an “enterprise” and conspired to kill – and others relating to the murder of taxi boss Mkhize.

“We have arrested as many policemen in the unit as are implicated… there are a number of other cases where people were killed but the evidence is not strong enough,” Dlamini said. – Additional reporting by Bronwyn Fourie

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