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Jiba: Booysen racketeering charge was not politically motivated

The narrative that former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen was prosecuted for racketeering in order to remove him from politically sensitive corruption investigations is “totally false,” embattled deputy prosecutions head Nomgcobo Jiba said on Monday.

Jiba was being cross-examined at the Mokgoro inquiry into whether she is fit for her post at the National Prosecuting Authority. The inquiry is also looking into the fitness to hold office of Lawrence Mrwebi, the head of the Specialised Commercial Crime Unit. This comes after the pair were criticised in a number of court judgments.

Monday was the first time Jiba has been cross-examined on the allegations against her — including her authorisation of the racketeering prosecution of Booysen.

When Booysen gave evidence, he said when Jiba authorised the racketeering prosecution, there was no evidence in the documents before her which linked him to any criminal offence at all, let alone racketeering. He was supported in this view by senior prosecutor Jan Ferreira, who testified earlier at the inquiry.

The racketeering charges related to what was publicly known as the “Cato Manor death squad”. The Durban organised crime unit, whose office was in Cato Manor, was accused of having carried out the “extra-judicial killings” of 28 people.

The photos of the killings have been described as “gruesome” and “horrific”. Thirty people are still to stand trial for their murders in October, according to the indictment. Booysen is accused number one in the indictment.

Jiba said Booysen did not have to be present at the scene in order to bring charges — the law speaks about managing the enterprise; or knowing, or reasonably ought to know, that the enterprise was going on. She said it was like drug-dealing, the mastermind was not the one who was on the scene, selling the drugs.

Jiba added that there was evidence that Booysen was managing the enterprise or ought to have known it was going on. She referred to an affidavit by Booysen himself in the high court when Bongani Mkhize, one of the people who ended up dead at the hands of the police, had applied for an interdict to prevent the police killing him.

When asked by Nazreen Bawa SC what part of the affidavit she was referring to, Jiba said it was the affidavit as a whole and looked at in context. Jiba also said that there was no need for a monetary reward to secure a conviction of racketeering, all that needed to be shown was a common purpose.

Jiba further testified that the reason she appointed a new team to prosecute Booysen, from outside of KZN, was because the Independent Police Investigative Directorate had approached her, complaining that the prosecution was not proceeding, raising concerns that the KZN prosecutors seemed to hold the Cato Manor unit in “high esteem”.

Earlier in the inquiry, former KZN director of public prosecutions Simphiwe Mlotshwa emphatically denied that it was he who asked for an external team, as had been suggested by the prosecutor who took over, Gladstone Maema.

On Monday, Jiba said “it was a decision that I made”.

Jiba was asked by Kgomotso Moroka SC — one of the inquiry’s three-member panel chaired by retired Constitutional Court Justice Yvonne Mokgoro — whether she had investigated the concerns that the KZN prosecutors had worked too closely with the Cato Manor police officers.

She said she had not, and that her concern was to “get the prosecution going”. Asked whether such an investigation would not have been important, given the origin of the complaint, Jiba said it might have been an oversight on her part.

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Franny Rabkin
Franny Rabkin
Franny is the legal reporter at the Mail & Guardian

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