NPA sets up ethics unit in aftermath of Cato Manor 'death squad' shame

Former KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen prepares to give testimony at the state capture commission in Parktown, Johannesburg, on May 2 2019.
Former KZN Hawks head Johan Booysen prepares to give testimony at the state capture commission in Parktown, Johannesburg, on May 2 2019.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is setting up an in-house ethics monitor in a bid to restore the lustre of an institution dulled by state capture.

The NPA and several of its prominent prosecutors have taken a hammering at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture, exposed by allegations of improper and often politically tainted conduct.

NPA spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said on Saturday that at the heart of the bid to rebuild the institution is the withdrawal of racketeering and criminal charges against the so-called “Cato Manor death squad” and former top Hawk Johan Booysen.

When she took the helm, NPA boss Shamila Batohi assembled a panel of experts to interrogate a decision by her predecessor, Shaun Abrahams, to authorise racketeering charges against the cops.

Booysen and 26 other officers, some of whom have since left the police service, were arrested in 2012 on allegations that they had been running a “death squad”.

They were alleged to have killed suspects or rivals of taxi operators they were doing business with, and planted weapons to frame crime scenes.

Booysen challenged racketeering charges against him in court and successfully had them set aside‚ only to have them reinstated by Abrahams in 2016.

Ngwema said the panel reviewed the evidence on which Abrahams based his decision and found a racketeering prosecution could not be justified.

“After careful consideration, the National Director of Public Prosecutions [Batohi] decided to withdraw all racketeering charges,” he said.

The murder and other charges were referred back to the prosecutions head in KwaZulu-Natal for a decision, leading to a full withdrawal of charges.

“This case aligns to the commitment to restore the independence and credibility of the NPA,” said Ngwema.

“This, among other things, entails reviewing certain decisions that are in the public domain, in respect of which there are allegations of improper conduct on the part of NPA staff.

“The NPA is committed to restoring confidence and regaining the respect it once enjoyed from the SA public.

“To this end, the NPA is in the process of establishing an internal office of complaints and ethics, the mandate of which will include all issues of integrity and aims to provide the mechanism to deal with improper behaviour on the part of NPA staff.”

A key player in the Cato Manor saga is erstwhile deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba.

She was fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the recommendation of retired Constitutional Court justice Yvonne Mokgoro, who chaired an inquiry that found Jiba unfit to hold office.

During the inquiry last year, former Asset Forfeiture Unit head Willie Hofmeyr said Booysen’s case was part of a trend under Jiba to prosecute those who were “perceived as obstacles to corruption and the capture of the state”.  

The criminal investigation of a business associate of Jacob Zuma’s son, Edward, and his nephew, Deebo Mzobe, is what Booysen contends is the reason he found himself in the dock.

He maintained that his pursuit of those close to the levers of power saw him and the Cato Manor cops targeted as collateral damage in a well-engineered fightback.

Ngwema said the NPA investigating directorate had several criminal dockets relating to these matters. Now, with access to evidence placed before the Zondo commission, “urgent action will be taken”.

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