Witnesses fear for their lives and go into hiding

2012-08-25 19:13

Relatives of the 28 people allegedly murdered by the Cato Manor ­Serious and Violent Crime unit have quit their jobs, closed businesses and left school in order to go into witness protection.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has confirmed that many of the people due to testify as witnesses against the unit asked for protection because they feared for their lives.

Thirty members of the unit were indicted in the Durban Regional Court in KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.

City Press can also reveal thatIPID investigator Innocent Khuba,who was initially charged with conducting an investigation into the unit, was rushed out of the province after he received death threats.

Khuba was replaced with another project manager who coordinated the initial arrest of 18 members in June and this week’s swoop on another 12 police officials, among them Hawks KwaZulu-Natal head Major General Johan Booysen.

Khuba, IPID head in Limpopo, was sent to KwaZulu-Natal in January to head the probe, which was conducted jointly with the Hawks.

IPID spokesperson Moses Dlamini confirmed that Khuba had received several telephonic death threats while working on the case.

“He received calls threatening that he would be killed for investigating Cato Manor,” Dlamini said.

“We had a threat assessment conducted and were advised that there was real danger to Khuba and that he should be taken out of ­KwaZulu-Natal immediately. We did so and replaced him with ­another project manager.”

Dlamini also confirmed that ­after the initial arrests in June, “most” of the witnesses to the ­alleged killings had successfully requested that they be given ­witness protection because they feared for their lives.

“After the first arrests, most of the witnesses told us they were very afraid of this group and wanted (to be put) into witness protection,” he said.

“Some left their businesses and went into witness protection, ­others even stopped going to school or left their jobs because they were terrified.”

The witness list attached to the court indictment served on Friday contains a total of 308 witnesses.

However, the majority of them are either members of the police or technical experts who conducted forensic, pathology or ballistic tests.
Dlamini was “not in a position” to say how many witnesses were in protection.

During the bail application of the unit members arrested in June, ­investigators told the court one of the accused, Warrant Officer Paul Mostert, had told witnesses that he would kill them if they gave ­evidence against him and his ­colleagues.

However, another accused, ­Captain Neville Eva, testified that neither he nor any of his men had, or would, interfere with witnesses and did not know their identity.

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