Acting NDPP alleges that unit acted like organised crime operation
Members of the so-called Cato Manor police death squad have been accused of carrying out paid hits in the KwaZulu-Natal taxi wars.
Advocate Nomgcobo Jiba, the acting national director of public prosecutions, made these startling allegations against the unit and its overall commander, Hawks KwaZulu-Natal boss General Johan Booysen, in court papers this week.
The papers were submitted in response to an application by Booysen to have the decision to charge him with racketeering declared invalid.
In the papers, Jiba alleges the CatoManor unit carried out killings for the Stanger Taxi Association in a bloody war over routes with the rival KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association.
Booysen and members of the unit are set to stand trial in November on more than 100 charges, including 28 murder counts relating to a series of killings by the police that the state claims were unlawful.
According to the indictment, the killing of taxi operators, ATM bombers and armed robbers were carried out as an organised crime operation by unit members with Booysen in overall control.
In her papers, Jiba said Booysen’s men killed members of the KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association who were in “conflict” with the rival Stanger body, “ordinary civilians” and criminal gangs who were suspected of being involved in ATM bombing.
In “most of the killings”, officers would place firearms next to the dead person to create the impression they had acted in self-defence.
“Startlingly, the applicant and others were paid money by a competing taxi association to have their rivals killed,” Jiba said.
Jiba said Booysen orchestrated the killings and provided information to the officers who carried out the killings. He then recommended “monetary awards and certificates be given to them for having done so”.
She also claimed that Booysen helped cause the death of suspects by refusing to allow his men to call paramedics who could have saved the lives of dying suspects whom they had shot.
Jiba said she had no written record of her decision to charge Booysen with racketeering on August 17 last year and refused to provide any other internal documents as they were “privileged”.
She said she had relied on police dockets and four statements in deciding to charge Booysen with racketeering on August 17 last year.
Two of the statements were from the former CatoManor Serious and Violent Crimes Unit head, Colonel Rajen Ayer, who had been transferred after a major fallout with Booysen.
But one of Ayer’s statements was made 10 days after Jiba decided to charge Booysen. The other statements were made by Ari Danikas, a former friend of Booysen’s and a police reservist now living in Greece. It has not been signed.
The fourth statement, by a police informer who died of natural causes in November, claims that Booysen was paid up to R1 million to organise taxi hits.
A date for the application to be heard by a judge in the KwaZulu-Natal High Court will be set after Booysen responds.
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