All charges against suspended KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Major General Johan Booysen were withdrawn in the high court in Durban on Monday.
The withdrawal follows a ruling handed down by Judge Trevor Gorven at the end of February, in which he condemned a decision by then acting national director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Nomgcobo Jiba to prosecute Booysen, saying the charges did not meet even the barest of minimum requirements.
Proceedings in Durban were simply a formality as Gorven had ordered that the charges be set aside.
Sello Maema told Judge Kate Pillay the state wanted to withdraw the charges.
"All charges against you have been withdrawn. You are free to go," Pillay told Booysen.
Booysen, who was head of the now disbanded Cato Manor serious and violent crimes unit, had been charged, along with his former colleagues, of running a criminal enterprise.
Members of the unit were expected to stand trial on a range of charges, including 28 murder counts, later this year.
They allegedly carried out paid hits in the KwaZulu-Natal minibus taxi wars.
Jiba said in her court papers that the unit acted like an organised crime organisation.
Booysen was charged in August 2012 with managing and participating in an enterprise through a pattern of racketeering activity.
Apart from the racketeering charges, Booysen was accused of two murders, unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
In his judgment, Gorven wrote: "Even accepting the least stringent test for rationality imaginable, the decision of the NDPP does not pass muster.
"I can conceive of no test for rationality, however relaxed, which could be satisfied by her explanation. The impugned decisions were arbitrary, offend the principle of legality and, therefore, the rule of law, and were unconstitutional."
Gorven said the prosecution had conceded that nothing in the dockets implicated Booysen.
Booysen's application to have the charges set aside was argued in the high court in Durban on February 7 and Gorven handed down his judgment on February 26.
The National Prosecuting Authority had initially lodged a notice seeking leave to appeal against Gorven's judgment, but this application was abandoned last week.
Speaking outside court, Booysen said he was relieved.
"This does not mean the fight is completely won," he said.
Booysen said he would like to return to work and that he would discuss his next move with his lawyer, Carl van der Merwe, who was also representing the other members of the disbanded Cato Manor unit.
Withdrawal of charges
When asked about his suspension and the disciplinary action he faces, Booysen said that according to the police's regulations he should have faced disciplinary proceedings within 60 days of his suspension.
"It is illegal. We are now approaching 600 days," he said.
Van der Merwe declined to discuss how the withdrawal of the charges against Booysen would affect the case against the other members. – Sapa