Court: ‘Leave Booysen alone’

2015-11-19 11:51
Colonel Johan Booysen

Colonel Johan Booysen (Niyanta Singh)

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Pietermaritzburg - The police have been told to leave Major-General Johan Booysen alone and ­reinstate him, a Durban high court judge has ruled.

But while he will no longer be ­suspended he cannot return to work as the Directorate of Priority Crime ­Investigation(known as the Hawks) said it will appeal the decision.

In an extraordinary judgment in which the court questioned the handling of this matter by the national head of the priority crime unit Lieutenant-General Benny Ntlemeza, it also ordered that the state pay all of Booysen’s legal costs.

Judge Anton van Zyl set aside the ­September suspension of Booysen, who is the KZN Hawks boss, and further ­ordered that he ­cannot be re-suspended for the same charges again.

It was yet another successful legal ­outing for the embattled Booysen, who has been the subject of and won ­numerous criminal, civil and internal legal wrangles over the last four years.

“[Taking into account] the sustained unsuccessful attempts in the past to ­remove the applicant from office, it is not unreasonable to suppose that ­further attempts in this regard may be made, despite the paucity of evidence against the applicant,” said Van Zyl.

He said while there was not “sufficient evidence”, there is a “strong ­suggestion” that there is “a campaign to unseat the applicant [Booysen]”.

Booysen was issued with a notice of intention to suspend him in August but only sent home in September. He was accused of recommending himself and his colleagues along with incorrect docket numbers to substantiate the recommendation, for a “cash reward of R15 384,62” together with certificates of commendation by the national commissioner. According to Ntlemeza, this was deemed “fraudulent representation”.

In his letter of suspension Ntlemeza said Booysen would be placed on suspension on full pay until he was cleared or ­disciplined. But in the judgment Van Zyl shot down the DPCI head for making a folly of errors.

He said Ntlemeza had incorrectly ­stated the cash reward at just over R15 000 when in fact it was R10 000, that the incorrect docket numbers was a typing error of which “nothing sinister can … be inferred”, that Booysen did not make the recommendation himself as the paper trail spoke to the contrary and that there was an “insufficient factual basis for drawing the conclusion that the recommendation [to the ­commissioner] was misleading”.

“The probabilities of the experienced members of the [SAPS] Awards ­committees [having] been misled ­appear remote,” said van Zyl.

He said Ntlemeza’s reasons to suspend Booysen were unclear as there was “unsustainable … information at his disposal” and that prior to the suspension, representations by Booysen — which ­became the subject of this high court application — were “effectively ignored”.

All the legal fees, while the amount is not disclosed, will be picked up by the taxpayer and will include the costs of both parties’ senior and junior counsel.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said the unit feel they have grounds to appeal Van Zyl’s judgment.

“We have already informed Booysen’s lawyers of our intention. General ­Booysen will not return to duty pending the appeal although he is no longer on suspension.

“The appeal will be made at the ­Durban high court. If we fail in this ­appeal a decision will be taken on ­whether we take it further or not.”

Booysen has spent the last four years proving his innocence in the high court and to a disciplinary committee. He is now demanding R10,5 million in ­damages from the police. Prior to his ­latest suspension he had applied for the post of national Hawks boss.

Along with the Cato Manor Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, he was arrested in 2012 on charges of racketeering, of which he was cleared. He was then the subject of an internal inquiry and ­exonerated. That disciplinary action concluded that there was a vendetta against Booysen.

A post to a Facebook group set up in support of Booysen and the now closed Cato Manor unit known as “Durban ­Organised Crime Unit — KZN” said shortly after the judgment: “General Booysen just won his application in the Durban high court, with costs. Back to work he goes. More money wasted by the state. It’s about time they put a padlock on that government cheque book”.

The Democratic Alliance, which has been a vocal supporter of Booysen, said this result is an indication that there is a “political witch-hunt” within the ­police. The party’s shadow deputy ­minister of police Marius Redelinghuys said, “Booysen has tried or is believed to have tried to investigate people close to the president and others in political power. It is unlikely, however that ­Booysen’s problems will go away.”

A senior KZN police source, who ­cannot be named, said: “Ntlemeza will probably appeal the decision as Booysen is coming up towards retirement and they will most likely try and drag the matter on until then”.

The judgment said the Minister of ­Police Nathi Nhleko would abide by “the decision of the court”.

Read more on:    johan booysen  |  pietermaritzburg  |  court

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