Son of late Cato Manor 'death squad' member pays tribute to 'hero' father

One of the two sons of a late police officer who was a member of the so-called "Cato Manor death squad" has hailed his father as a "hero".

In an open letter to the Sunday Times, published on Facebook this week, Ashton Eva, the son of Captain Neville Eva, said he would always defend his father's legacy following the newspaper's recent apology for stories it had run on the "death squads" in 2011.

"I will always stand tall and will never stop fighting until the courts finally decide to look at the facts/reality/truth and clear my father and members of the Cato Manor unit's name. I believe in the justice of this land," he wrote.

He said he was heartbroken when his father told the family about the article on a Friday before the article was published on Sunday.

"He wore his heart on his sleeve and called all the people that meant something to him. He knew that the article was being printed and would be published for the country to see.

"I will never forget that look in his eyes, the heartbreak that all his long hours of hard work, putting his life on the line as he faced the worst of society on a daily basis and all the sacrifices he had made were for nothing as his world came crashing down because the editors were chasing a prize and serving a hidden agenda."

Captain Eva died in 2012, a year after the Sunday Times published the report into the so-called death squad.

On October 14 this year, Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko apologised for the Cato Manor report as well as for those on the so-called South African Revenue Service "rogue unit" and Zimbabwean "renditions".

Siqoko also announced that the paper would return all the awards it had received, as well as any prize money.

READ: Sunday Times to return awards, prize money for discredited reports

Mzilikazi wa Afrika and Stephan Hofstatter were the investigative journalists involved in the articles published in 2011.

Apology 'not enough'

Ashton said they had been quiet for six years, but promised: "I will not allow the people that destroyed my father's name to think that by them saying a simple 'I am sorry we got it wrong' is ever going to be good enough – it will NEVER be!" he said in an open letter to the Sunday Times, published on the Durban organised crime unit KwaZulu-Natal Facebook page.

"I challenge the captured men to put this all to bed and reveal your sources, let the country see their names splattered all over the Sunday Times because the truth will truly set you free."

He said it was more than just 30 men affected, but also families, wives and their children.

He said his father told them there and then that the truth would come out in the end, "but it is going to be a very hard long road and that we must stand strong in the face of adversity".

"My dad had always had a very high code of moral ethics and he totally believed in our justice system and the rule of law," he added.

READ: Nothing wrong with Sunday Times 'death squad' article, researcher claims

Ashton's brother, Dale Ashton, said the journalists involved in the story "failed to investigate" and "failed to follow the audi alteram partem rule that criminal investigators are obliged to follow".

He said the journalists involved should know they were responsible for affecting his life.

He was 15 years old when about 12 heavily-armed officers surrounded his family home and blocked off access to their road.

"They were searching for my father so they could arrest him. Let me add that they were following orders so I don't blame them at all for that, they were doing their job, but I do blame them for ransacking our house and threatening my mother as she tried to protect us and I blame their superiors who failed to tell them the Cato Manor unit were ready to hand themselves over and were at their offices in Victoria Embankment.

Sunday Times editor 'brave'

"It was an absolute show of force and intimidation for the media and they took great delight in causing terror and embarrassment to all the families," Dale said.

"I was stopped from leaving the house and did not make my mid-year exam at school that day," he said.

He said he would like to personally thank the Sunday Times for "finally posting the truth".

"It only took you six years to admit something that many people already knew from day one and that was that you were wrong.

"To the editor of the newspaper: the fact that you were brave enough to step up and tell the truth knowing that there are a lot of big and powerful people who are not going to be happy that you aren't afraid of them is something I'm eternally grateful for," he said.

He accused those who got rewards and collected money as "gifts" and even promotions as being "responsible for murder" that will have to live with their consciences.

"To the families and people that haven't second-guessed the legality at any stage of the heroic acts that these heroes did to save our lives, I personally thank you for your gracious support.

"The fight is not over yet and as my dad used to say let's 'bite the bullet' and keep persevering [in the belief] that the courts will finally see the truth," he said.

Sunday Times editor Bongani Siqoko could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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