A long fight for justice

2014-03-01 00:00

SUSPENDED KZN Hawks boss Major- General Johan Booysen has always maintained the charges against him were a conspiracy to oust him — and to stop him from proceeding with high-profile investigations.

This week the Durban high court ruled in his favour in a civil application that he had brought to have the National Director of Public Prosecution’s charges against him declared invalid.

Booysen faced racketeering, murder, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice charges since August 2012.

Describing his fight for justice as a long and arduous one, Booysen said the most frustrating aspect was “sitting on the sidelines of crime-fighting and not being able to do anything about it officially”.

“It just made me so angry to sit at home preparing to defend myself on unfounded allegations whereas I could have much rather have spent the time attending to the scourge of crime in the province,” said Booysen.

A seasoned officer with more than 35 years’ experience, Booysen, who has also received training with the FBI, said he stood firm in his faith that justice would always be served.

“From day one I knew what was behind the move to have me and the members of the Cato Manor unit charged. Luckily, I have nothing to hide and a clean slate for which I am willing to go to the highest level,” said Booysen in a candid interview after the court ruling on Wednesday.

Judge Trevor Govern found that the certificate to charge Booysen was not correctly authorised and flawed and therefore held no merit.

This could result in criminal charges being withdrawn against Booysen and his unit.

Judge Govern said the former NDPP Nomgcobo Jiba’s decision to prosecute Booysen relied only on information in statements in the docket. But of those 23 dockets furnished, Booysen was only mentioned in two; and of the 290 statements, Booysen was only mentioned in three.

Jiba’s prosecution also only relied on information supplied by Booysen’s colleague, Captain Rajen Aiyer (who was subsequently transferred from the unit after a disciplinary hearing), a Mr Ari Danikas and a Mr Ndlondlo.

Booysen’s woes began in December 2011 when the Sunday Times reported that it had uncovered evidence of a police “hit squad” operating in KwaZulu-Natal under the command of Booysen.

The article stated that “the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit in Durban has allegedly committed scores of assassinations, some in retaliation for suspected cop killings and others related to ongoing taxi wars”.

By February 2012, despite no evidence being found by specially appointed police investigators into the “hit squad”, the Cato Manor unit was closed by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.

Allegations against members of the unit surfaced after a CD was circulated to the media with pictures showing members of the unit at a braai, and suspects shot and firearms placed near them, among others.

This information came to light after the arrest of police colonel Navin Madhoe, who was charged with attempting to bribe Booysen with R1,7 million in exchange for documents related to another case, involving Umhlanga businessperson Thoshan Panday.

Panday and Madhoe were charged with fraud and corruption relating to a R60 million police accommodation tender scam and for the attempt to bribe Booysen.

Those charges against Panday and Madhoe have all subsequently been withdrawn.

Booysen and the 27 members of the unit were subsequently charged with racketeering, murder, being in posession of a firearm and a multitude of other offences.

While the state had relied heavily on those statements, a damning document that detailed a conspiracy against Booysen surfaced. The document, in the possession of The Witness, detailed allegations by Booysen’s former policeman colleague — who was transferred from his unit.

The document, dating to 2009, made several derogatory references and sensational accusations against high-profile South Africans, including previous National Prosecuting Authority bosses, several high-ranking politicians, former national and provincial police commissioners as well as some businesspeople and convicted fraudsters.

According to the transcripts, the policeman allegedly wanted Booysen “out” because he believed he deserved the position as the head of the then Scorpions.

The document contains a transcript of a conversation between the policeman and another man.

Through it all, Booysen vowed to fight to maintain his position even if it meant going to “court and all the way to the top”. And that was what he did.

But it came at a price.

“My family has particularly suffered. My children are all professionals and were most upset by the allegations against me. Despite it all, they have remained my biggest supporters,” said Booysen.

Taking on the tough challenge to clear his name, Booysen said, “I had no doubt in my mind that the truth will be revealed and justice would be done”.

• Niyanta.Singh@witness.co.za

What Booysen’s police accuser said

An extract:

“Out, out, out, he must go. Director Booysen must be out, first thing. You see the detective services, it’s run by the Mafia, the head of the detectives is [name withheld], before him is Booysen.

“Now these two wit ous [white guys] are running the show. They’ve been running it since ’99, all these are rightwing, these are ex-Rhodesian, they’ve been working in Murder and Robbery. They’ve been killing our people. Let me tell you all these deaths that are taking place, these armed robberies …”

The policeman goes on to say that although he is in a position of power at a certain police unit (name withheld), he has no control over it.

“I am the unit commander, but I’ve got no control of the department. There is a group calling themselves the Big Five. The head of the Big Five is Booysen …

“Boss, let me tell you, they are all in the Cato Manor office, the Serious and Violent Crime Office, they must be shut down … out of the police … I don’t want one of them there, all of them…

“I am telling you to just open a can of worms … because you know what, they don’t want me because I am next in line to head the Scorpions …” reads the transcript.

Later in the conversation, the policeman describes Booysen as a thorn in his flesh.

“The main thorn in the flesh is the big three.

“If you take these three out, first [name withheld] from the NPA, from the Director of Public Prosecutions and you take out Booysen.

“Close Cato Manor … close it. You must take a decision now to restructure him [Booysen] out there, you must send him to Ulundi, finish and klaar.”

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