Former NPA boss faced pressure to sign Cato Manor death squad indictment, Zondo hears
Johannesburg - A former acting head of the national prosecuting authority in KwaZulu-Natal has detailed the pressure he faced to sign an indictment that lacked critical details about criminal charges related to the Cato Manor death squad saga.
Advocate Simphiwe Mlotshwa took the stand at the Zondo Commission on Thursday. He acted as the NPA's head of prosecutions in KZN from 2010 until July 2012.
Mlotshwa had testified last year at the inquiry held to determine former NPA bosses, advocate Nomgcobo Jiba and Lawrence Mrwebi, fitness to hold office.
The two were later removed from the powerful positions at the NPA by President Cyril Ramaphosa following recommendations from the Mokgoro inquiry.
The basis of Mlotshwa's evidence focused on the pressure he faced to sign an indictment related to the Cato Manor death squad.
The Cato Manor death squad matter involved the charges that were brought against more than 20 police officers that worked for the organised crime intelligence unit. They were dubbed as the 'Cato Manor death squad'.
The officers were accused of killing civilians and staging causes of their deaths. Former Hawks KZN boss Johan Booysen was also charged along with the men.
These charges and indictment of the men happened after Mlotshwa had left office, but it was when he was still the acting head of the NPA in KZN where the pressure for the case to be brought to court began.
Mlotshwa told the commission about a call from Jiba in 2012 where she requested that he sign an indictment on an urgent matter that had to be brought to court.
Later on when Jiba, Mlotshwa and an advocate Andrew Chauke, who headed up prosecution in Gauteng, met and Mlotshwa was told that he had to sign the indictment but he was given very little detail about the charges.
Mlotshwa said initially he agreed that he would sign the indictment, but he had to be provided with the prosecutor's memorandum which provided details on the case before he would sign the indictment.
When the indictment was later forwarded to him, it did not include the prosecutor's memorandum, so he refused to sign the indictment and informed Chauke.
He said he was never privy to the memorandum containing the charges in the Cato Manor case and he never signed the indictment.
Another unusual matter about the pressure to prosecute the Cato Manor case was that prosecutors from the North West and Gauteng were brought in to prosecute a matter in KZN.
Mlotshwa said he was told that this was because there was a security risk to the case and a possibility for some KZN prosecutors to be implicated in the matter.
"That is the aspect I found odd. I indicated that we did not have the case number and police stations the matter comes from. No matter came to be attended to at the High Court without a DPP file,” he explained.
Mlotshwa was replaced in July 2012 by advocate Moipone Noko. When Noko took over, she brought charges in the Cato Manor matter.
Mlotshwa explained that he experienced health issues and security threats against his life which required that he be provided with armed security at his home. The same security was randomly removed.
"I did not bother to ask who had decided to remove the security. I realised that I was swimming against the tide. The prosecutorial job comes with a lot of pressure. There was pressure if you look at the matters being handled. I would say that I was able to handle the pressure. After I had stepped down I also looked at the speculation and that my recalling was possibly to make space for certain decisions to be made."
The charges brought against the former Cato Manor police officers were later dropped by the head of the NPA Shamila Batohi last year.
The Zondo commission will resume on March 11.
Deputy chief justice Raymond Zondo announced that the inquiry would no longer sit at the Hill on Empire in Parktown, a venue where the inquiry has sat since it began in August 2018.
The commission will continue its work at the old Joburg municipal chambers in Braamfontein.