‘Police hit squads’: ICD probe

2011-12-16 00:00

THE Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) will investigate the alleged involvement of KwaZulu-Natal’s organised crime unit in the deaths of suspected criminals, it said yesterday.

This follows reports in the Sunday Times alleging the existence of a death squad within the Cato Manor-based unit.

The newspaper alleged this week that the unit killed scores of people under the command of Major-General Johan Booysen in 2008. Booysen now heads the Hawks in the province.

It said the murders were in retaliation for suspected police killings and the ongoing taxi wars in the province.

In a statement yesterday the ICD said it had not investigated any death squad, but had probed the involvement of individual members of the unit in the death of suspects at different periods.

The latest investigation would be a review of all cases involving the unit’s members.

A task team led by ICD provincial head Innocent Khuba had been established to conduct the review.

Potential witnesses or people with information can call Khuba at 084 7022741 or e-mail him at ikhuba@icd.gov.za

The ICD said there was also a witness protection programme to ensure the safety of witnesses. It would be available to those who feared for their lives.

ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini said police officers should do their work within the confines of the country’s laws, which prohibit the execution of suspects.

“The duty of the police is to arrest and bring suspects before the relevant courts of law.”

The ICD was committed to ensuring that rogue elements within the police service were removed, he added.

The Sunday Times reported it had photographs of suspects with close-range bullet wounds to the head, which, according to experts, were not consistent with self-defence or shoot-outs, as alleged by police.

NEWS of the investigations and claims of a hit squad have been met with an “I told you so” from accused fraudster Thoshan Panday.

The Pietermaritzburg-born businessman is at the centre of a multi-million rand tender probe involving Brigadier Lucas Ngobeni, the husband of KZN police chief Lieutenant-General Mmamun Ngobeni, in which Booysen is the key witness.

“I have raised concerns about the credibility of Booysen ever since this trial started,” said Panday.

Since the inception of the charges Panday has maintained that bribery charges implicating him and his co- accused, Colonel Navin Madhoe, are an attempt to silence Madhoe and revive an investigation into Panday that has gone cold.

Madhoe claims that he was made aware of the unit’s heavy-handed tactics and wanted to blow the whistle, and was therefore set up by Booysen.

The suspended colonel is alleged to have attempted to bribe Booysen with R2 million funded by Panday and to blackmail him with incriminating pictures of the unit’s various actions at odds with the Constitution so that he (Booysen) would backdate documents and hence make the Panday inquiry disappear.

The said pictures were mentioned in court by Booysen, but never produced as evidence.

Speaking from his palatial Umhlanga Ridge home, Panday claimed he was afraid for his life since “the death squad would stop at nothing to have their way”.

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