Cele supports 'hit squad' cops

2012-06-21 17:08
Bheki Cele (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

Bheki Cele (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Axed police chief Bheki Cele was at the bail hearing of 20 arrested Cato Manor policemen in Durban on Thursday to show moral support, his office said.

The 20 police officers appeared in the Durban Regional Court on charges of murder, assault, theft, and unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

They were arrested on Wednesday in a joint operation by the Hawks and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

All 20 were members of the Durban Organised Crime Unit, which was shut down in February amid allegations that there was an alleged death squad in its midst.

Most of its members have since been incorporated into the Hawks.

In a statement, issued by Cele's spokesperson Vuyo Mkhize, he said the charges were directly related to the task of crime fighting.

'Gallant crime-fighters'


They did not have licence to carry out their mandate by unlawful means, but because the charges directly related to their official duties and because of their distinguished service records, they were as deserving as other South Africans of the principle of "innocent until proven guilty".

"My only hope is that more South Africans will come out in support of initiatives such as the 'Durban Organised Crime Unit KZN' Facebook page that seeks to galvanise emotional and financial support for these gallant crime-fighters during their hour of need," said Cele.

Should they be found guilty, no one would argue that they be spared the full consequences of their actions.

Amnesty International welcomed the arrests as a breakthrough in fighting impunity for human rights violations.

"The unit's alleged victims included a taxi company owner, Bongani Mkhize, killed three months after he obtained a High Court order constraining the police from killing him; and a 15 year-old school boy, Kwazi Ndlovu, shot dead when heavily-armed members of the unit burst into his home," Amnesty International said.

Impunity

Journalists, lawyers, human rights monitors and family members had battled for more than four years for the unit to account for its crimes.

"Until now, these efforts have been blocked by a climate of impunity fostered by public statements, in the context of the 'war against crime', by senior politicians and police officials," said Mary Rayner, Amnesty International's South Africa researcher.

"We are hopeful that these arrests are evidence of a new political will to take action against members of the police suspected of involvement in human rights violations."

Amnesty International was aware of threats and intimidation being used against the people investigating and exposing these crimes.

It urged the authorities to guarantee the safety of investigators and witnesses, and to ensure the impartiality and independence of the current investigations.

It also urged the government to publicly and unambiguously denounce acts of torture and extra-judicial executions as human rights violations which could not be justified under any circumstances.
- SAPA
Read more on:    police  |  bheki cele  |  durban
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