Cato Manor 'death squad' want case struck from roll

2018-10-08 06:15
Cato Manor officers appear in court. (File, Jeff Wicks, News24)

Cato Manor officers appear in court. (File, Jeff Wicks, News24)

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The remaining 27 accused in the so-called Cato Manor "death squad" case want the case struck from the roll.

The application is expected to be heard by Durban High Court Judge Graham Lopes on Monday when the men - who are facing 116 charges including racketeering, murder and attempted murder - make their 18th court appearance since the original group of 30 were arrested in 2012.

Since then, three of them have died of natural causes.

READ: Another delay in 'Cato Manor death squad' case

And those who have not subsequently resigned from the police service are all back at work.

In written argument, which has been filed with the court, they say at this rate the matter will only proceed to trial in 2022 or 2023 - and all of the delays are entirely the State’s fault.

"Keeping the matter on the roll in these circumstances serves no purpose and is unfair," their lawyers advocate Anton Katz, SC, and advocate Michael Bishop argue.

But the State is opposing their application. It says it is the accused who are causing the delays because of their "civil applications".

"The State is ready to commence trial….it has its witnesses lined up."

No evidence to support 'criminal enterprise' claim

The matter has a long and complex history and there have been suggestions that the charges were politically motivated and possibly part of the "State Capture” landscape.

Former KZN Hawks head General Johan Booysen - who has now retired from the service - successfully challenged the racketeering charges against him in 2014.

Durban High Court Judge Trevor Gorven ruled that the then acting national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba had no evidence before her to authorise the racketeering charges because the statements she had relied upon were either unsigned, did not implicate Booysen, or were hearsay.

Charges were subsequently withdrawn against him.

Following this, the remaining accused who were facing racketeering charges brought a similar application against Jiba.

While this was pending, in 2016 the then newly-appointed NDPP Shaun Abrahams, who has since been removed from office, re-charged Booysen and issued new indictments against all those charged with racketeering - leading to another application to review and set aside Abrahams decision.

Again, the men claimed that there was no evidence to support a claim of a "criminal enterprise", a pattern of racketeering activity, or their involvement in either.

The State took more than three months to answer this - and have still not filed an answering affidavit in the Jiba application, their lawyers allege.

Because of the status of both applications - which it has now been agreed will be dealt with at the same time - and with the prospect of appeals, it is likely they will only be finalised in four or five years.

'Entirely the fault of the State'

They argue that they have a constitutional right to a speedy trial and six years is "exceptionally long by any standard".

"There is no end in sight… this is entirely at the fault of the State. The accused lives have been in limbo for close to seven years. It is pre-trial punishment.

"The matter must be struck from the roll until such time as these pre-trial applications have been finally determined. The prosecution must not be reinstituted until these cases have been finally determined."

In response, the prosecution team - advocates Sello Maema, Raymond Mthenjwa and JJ Mlotshwa - say all the postponements had been done by prior arrangement.

"The accused want to use the hurdles encountered in the civil challenges as an excuse for the criminal matter to be struck off the roll. 

"This is an abuse of process. The striking of the matter off the roll will dampen public trust in the criminal justice system including the family of the deceased, law enforcement officials and the media.

"They are accused of cold bloodedly killing civilians... the lives of witnesses are also at a standstill.

"The trial date should be set and let the prosecution prove its case."

The State has also asked that a judge outside the province hear the strike off application.

The accused say this is unnecessary.

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Read more on:    police  |  durban  |  crime  |  courts

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