Durban – A seven-year legal battle ended abruptly in the Durban High Court on Wednesday morning as all of the charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks’ boss Johan Booysen and members of the Cato Manor special investigating unit were withdrawn.
The group was collectively facing 116 charges and was accused of the extra judicial killings of 45 people.
“I have been instructed that the charges as they appear on the indictment are to be withdrawn,” the state prosecutor told judge Kate Pillay.
Pillay ordered the charges be withdrawn and also ordered that Booysen finally be allowed to retrieve his passport, a request made by his long-time legal representative, Carl van der Merwe.
Whether or not members of the group will be charged individually is now the decision of the KwaZulu-Natal prosecution head, Elaine Zungu.
The charges included racketeering, murder, housebreaking and theft, which were brought against Booysen and 24 unit members in 2012 by former deputy national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, following reports in the Sunday Times that the unit had acted as a “death squad”.
The paper has since said the allegations in the articles were not thoroughly substantiated and apologised.
The charges were eventually thrown out of the Durban High Court, with Jiba’s decision called “irrational” and “illegal”. However, the former national director of public prosecutions, Shaun Abrahams, reinstated charges in 2016.
Booysen, who has since retired and is working in the private sector, has maintained throughout the protracted saga that he was on the receiving end of a politically motivated decision because he would not halt investigations into politically connected individuals.
Abrahams’ successor, Shamila Batohi, announced last week that the racketeering charges had been dropped against Booysen and the remaining unit members following the recommendation of a panel established to review the dockets.
The panel found the decisions taken by Jiba and Abrahams to be “invalid” and that a “proper case was not made out”.
The remaining charges were referred back to Zungu “to re-assess the evidence in each case, and decide whether to prosecute individuals who may be implicated in those matters”.
Three of the unit members have died since the start of the saga, namely Captain Neville Eva, Lieutenant Thabs Thabethe and Captain Vincent Auerbach.
The remaining members who had not retired or resigned have resumed work in the police after being cleared through internal enquiries.
African News Agency/ANA