Batohi withdraws racketeering charge against Booysen

National director of public prosecutions (NDPP) Shamila Batohi has decided to withdraw racketeering charges against former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head General Johan Booysen and others.

The charge of racketeering — alleged by Booysen to be part of the capture of the security cluster — related to what would become known as the “Cato Manor death squad”. The name comes from a series of articles in the Sunday Times newspaper about alleged extra-judicial killings of 45 people by the Durban Organised Crime Unit, whose office was in Cato Manor.

READ MORE: NOT the news. More damage expected in Sunday Times fake news fallout

At the recent inquiry into the fitness for office of former deputy national director Nomgcobo Jiba, chaired by retired Judge Yvonne Mokgoro, Booysen repeated that there was no basis for the authorisation and that he believed it was politically motivated.

The decision by Jiba to authorise the charge when she was acting NDPP was set aside in the high court, but a new authorisation was given by Batohi’s predecessor Shaun Abrahams in 2016 and Booysen and his co-accused went back to court.

READ MORE: Booysen —‘I was prosecuted because I got in Edward Zuma’s way’

“In the circumstances, the NDPP needed to decide what the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] position will be in the litigation; this required that she satisfy herself as to the validity of the authorisations,” a statement from the NPA said on Tuesday.

According to the statement, a panel of four prosecutors — including two directors of public prosecutions and two prosecutors with “particular expertise in racketeering prosecutions” — unanimously concluded that “in respect of the authorisations a proper case was not made out on the papers presented”.

The panel recommended that the authorisations, of both Jiba and Abrahams, were invalid. Batohi also gave “careful consideration of the report and other relevant material,” before she made her decision said the statement.

The investigation dockets relating to the remaining charges — which include murder, housebreaking, theft and defeating the ends of justice — have been referred back to the acting director of public prosecution in KZN, Elaine Zungu, “to re-assess the evidence in each case, and decide whether to prosecute individuals who may be implicated in those matters”.

Booysen and other members of the South African Police Service were scheduled to go on trial for the gruesome killings in October. The former KwaZulu-Natal director Moipone Noko has been transferred to the North West province.

The statement said Zungu would contact the next of kin of the deceased persons and explain Batohi’s decision.

“It is important for them to know that the withdrawal of the racketeering charges does not mean that there will be no justice for victims of the crimes. Where there is sufficient evidence that actions of the police amount to criminal conduct, those responsible will be prosecuted and held accountable,” the statement read. 

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

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