Time is up for Cato Manor Unit

2012-02-16 00:00

Its 24 members were transferred to the Organised Crime head office in Durban yesterday, said Hawks spokesperson Colonel McIntosh Polela.

The unit’s offices have been given to the Cato Manor police station next door.

The Hawks investigation into whether the unit was operating as a hit squad continues, while the man in charge of it, Hawks KZN boss Major-General Johan Booysen, has been served with a notice of suspension.

Polela would not say whether notices of suspension had been served on any of the other members. In relation to Booysen, he would only say the Hawks wanted to afford their provincial head the dignity to respond properly.

While it is believed that the steps against Booysen relate to failing to act against the alleged atrocities at the unit, Booysen told The Witness he did not know why the Hawks intended to suspend him.

“The notice was not clear,” he said last night, referring further comment to his lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, who could not be reached.

Booysen was served with the suspension notice on Sunday night and has five days to respond.

Dr Johan Burger of the Institute for Security Studies cautioned police management not to “throw out the baby with the bath water”, saying Booysen was a good, dedicated officer.

“They should look at what went wrong and fix it,” he said.

“I think that the police management is taking the view that since he was the head of the unit, he was responsible for the actions.

“He had a responsibility to investigate any reported or suspected wrongdoing by his unit.”

Mary de Haas of the KZN Violence Monitor said the action against Booysen was a serious indictment on the police.

“This is a vote of no confidence against the leadership of the organised crime unit in the province,” she said.

“The intention to suspend Booysen could mean he failed to hold his unit to account, or worse, he was aware of their actions and did nothing.”

Kwenza Nxele of the police union Popcru welcomed the action, saying it protected the force from being tainted by allegations of wrongdoing.

In another development, two provincial Independent Complaints Directorate investigators have been officially suspended. They are linked to previous investigations by the ICD into cases involving the Cato Manor unit and the shooting dead of suspects.

“These are supervisors who oversaw some of these cases and things did not go well. They will be investigated and based on the evidence; a decision will be taken whether they should face a disciplinary hearing,” said ICD spokesperson Moses Dlamini.

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