Cato Manor officers to face trial next year

2015-03-31 00:00

THE state has told the Durban high court that the trial against the Cato Manor Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, dubbed the “Death Squad”, will begin next year.

However, the suspects charged doubt the case will ever go to trial, believing it will be struck off the roll.

The 26 suspended policemen from the now defunct unit, under the leadership of General Johan Booysen, faced a raft of charges including murder and racketeering.

The SAPS bomb squad swept the building and were even instructed to check presiding Judge Joseph Nxusani’s chambers for explosives.

The sitting was expected to nominate a judge to hear the upcoming trial, for which no date has yet been set.

But a further adjournment was requested by the state in order to meet its obligations and make key documents available to the defence.

The prosecutor, advocate Sello Maema, told Nxusani they would furnish the defence with all documents by May 15, with informal pre-trial meetings taking place shortly after.

“Simply put, we want to sort out the preliminary issues between the state and the defence.”

Nxusani questioned Maema on when it was expected that the trial would commence.

“So is the trial likely to commence next year?” asked Nxusani.

Maema replied: “Yes”.

Defence advocate Christo van Schalkwyk SC said the state had furnished them with some documentation, but not everything requested, and agreed to the adjournment.

In 2011, Booysen and members of the unit were accused of murdering 29 suspects, and planting firearms to make the ­killings look legal.

The indictment authorised by the National Prosecuting Authority’s former acting head, Nomgcobo Jiba, claims that Booysen ran a racketeering operation with his men, who are all suspended on full pay, and carried out paid hits while manipulating police systems to secure promotions and merit awards.

The squad is due back in court on June 23.

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