Expert questions 20 arrests

2012-06-21 00:00

ALL may not be what it seems — that is the view of a police expert who believes there might be underhand motives behind yesterday’s mass arrests.

“I am sceptical,” Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies said last night.

Burger questioned why the 20 policemen needed to be arrested and why the entire Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit had had to be closed down when only some of its members had been implicated.

“The unit acted against powerful people in KZN.

“Hence I am not convinced about the reason for the arrest. If there was a case for individuals to answer, why close down the whole unit?”

He said the many failed attempts to suspend Hawks provincial boss Johan Booysen were also suspicious.

“If there is a case to answer, by all means they should answer to it. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” Burger said.

He said the arrests would have an impact on the image of the new police commissioner, Riah Phiyega.

“If this makes her seen as a someone who is willing to take action, it will definitely strengthen her hand.”

Phiyega told The Witness last night that while she was aware of the “Cato Manor story”, she could not comment on the day’s developments further than a police statement issued earlier.

“I have been in meetings all day,” Phiyega said.

Mary de Haas of the KwaZulu-Natal Violence and Monitoring Group said the arrests would send a positive message to the unit’s alleged victims.

“And it will send a message to those doing wrong will get away with it.”

Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela defended the arrests and denied allegations of political interference.

“There was no heavy-handedness or political interference in this matter,” he said. “For us this was purely a criminal matter.”

KwaZulu-Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison Willies Mchunu said the arrests should serve “as a warning to all other rogue officers that they need to change or their turn is coming”.

Jay Naicker, the spokesperson for provincial police commissioner ­Mmamonnye Ngobeni, said she could not comment on a national matter.

The Ministry of Police also declined to comment.

Spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said the arrests were operational matters of the SA Police Service.

Moses Dlamini, spokesperson for the Independent Police Investigations Directorate, said the arrested officers were accused of serious crimes, including staging crime scenes.

Much of the evidence gathered by their investigators would emerge in court, he added.

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