Booysen avoids sacking

2014-12-19 00:00

KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen has chalked up another court victory — interdicting the national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega, from firing him.

His latest legal challenge against Phiyega came after she penned a letter in which she threatened to sack the career cop.

Durban high court Judge Peter Olsen yesterday granted an urgent interdict preventing the police from “discharging” Booysen or shifting him to another province.

The police will oppose the application, with the next court date set for March.

Booysen has waged, and won, significant court victories that challenged criminal and internal disciplinary charges since 2011.

Racketeering charges against him were set aside by the high court and he was exonerated by an independent advocate who chaired a disciplinary hearing initiated by Phiyega.

According to Booysen’s founding affidavit, he received a letter from the top cop on December 10 offering him the opportunity to make representations as to why she should not exercise her discretion to dismiss him from the police service.

He details how he was offered “an enhanced pension” to leave the police, an offer which he refused in favour of returning to work and seeing out his term of office.

In the letter, of which The Witness has a copy, Phiyega cited a breakdown of the working relationship between Booysen and the provincial police commissioner, Mmamonnye Ngobeni.

Ngobeni had been the subject of a criminal investigation after close ties emerged between her office and once fraud accused businessman Thoshan Panday in a R60 million police accommodation scam.

Panday had also paid for her husband’s birthday party at nearly R20 000.

Ngobeni was never prosecuted and has since been awarded a second five-year contract, while Panday was cleared in court.

Booysen alleges that his pursuit of Panday and Ngobeni led to him being side-lined, with an agenda to have him drummed out of the police force.

The letter offers a startling presentiment of “complete chaos” if Booysen was to return to work in the same province as Ngobeni.

The letter reads: “Your disciplinary enquiry came to a conclusion when Advocate Nazeer Cassim SC found you not guilty of the charges that were put to you … All reasonable settlement proposals that I have extended to you have not been accepted. I have offered you a transfer outside the province and the option of early retirement, both of which you have refused. I further need to mention that an offer made to you for early retirement was going to put you in a position as if you would have left at your retirement age. This meant that SA Police Services would pay all the penalties by the Government Pension’s Fund, any increments on your salary and benefits associated with your remaining years of service would also be paid to you, and I have therefore deemed it necessary that I restore harmony in the province. You are kindly advised that I have not made any final decision and shall await representation in this regard.”

Booysen’s attorney responded in a letter on December 15, which said: “The ruling by Cassim SC makes it clear that our client should return to work and that it is efficient, economical and in the interest of the service that he do so, in particular in the Directorate of Priority Crimes, which has to have adequate independence to avoid the kind of targeting like that evidence by your letter under reply.”

Booysen, in his affidavit before court, identifies a forensic report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers into Ngobeni and Panday’s alleged corruption, which has never been made public.

He accuses Phiyega of trying to oust him so that evidence she gave during his disciplinary hearing is not heard before court.

National police spokesperson Solomon Makgale said that they would oppose the application.

“The letter calling for representations will be set aside. In court both parties agreed to allow the SAPS to file their opposing papers,” he said.

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