Our re­sponse to an un­happy saga

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By JO­HAN BOOY­SEN

● The Sun­day Times will re­turn all the awards and prize money pre­sented to its re­porters for their re­ports on the Cato Manor “death squad”, the South African Rev­enue Ser­vice “rogue unit” and the Zim­bab­wean ren­di­tions.

Ed­i­tor Bon­gani Siqoko, who re­flects on and apol­o­gises for the re­ports and their af­ter­math on page 18 to­day, says the re­turn of the awards and the money is a bold move to fi­nally draw a line un­der the saga.

We also carry a piece writ­ten by the for­mer head of the Hawks in KwaZu­luNatal, Jo­han Booy­sen, who pro­vides an in­sider’s per­spec­tive on the events that led to the Cato Manor re­ports, and de­scribes how Sun­day Times re­porters may have been “played” by sources with a hid­den agenda.

On De­cem­ber 11 2011 the first in a se­ries of ar­ti­cles writ­ten by three jour­nal­ists, Stephan Hof­s­tat­ter, Mzi­likazi wa Afrika and Rob Rose, were pub­lished in the Sun­day Times. The ar­ti­cles told of a “rogue” po­lice unit at Cato Manor in Durban, which un­der my com­mand was re­spon­si­ble for a num­ber of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings. Ter­mi­nol­ogy such as “as­sas­si­na­tions, death squad, hit squad, bloody trail of killer cops, mur­der­ous and Vlak­plaas” were ac­com­pa­nied by grue­some pic­tures of dead bod­ies that con­jured up im­ages of apartheid-era mur­ders at the hands of po­lice as­sas­sins. These ar­ti­cles were fol­lowed by sim­i­lar ones writ­ten by the same jour­nal­ists over sev­eral months.

Be­fore the ar­ti­cles were pub­lished, I had heard that Hof­s­tat­ter and Wa Afrika had met rogue el­e­ments within crime in­tel­li­gence, some of whom were be­ing in­ves­ti­gated for loot­ing the se­cret ser­vices ac­count con­trolled by Richard Mdluli, for­mer head of crime in­tel­li­gence. I knew from one of the in­ves­ti­ga­tors, Col Vas Soo­bra­money, who worked un­der my com­mand, that Mdluli had once trav­elled to Bal­lito, near Durban, from Gaut­eng in an ef­fort to get Soo­bra­money to stop in­ves­ti­gat­ing by threat­en­ing him. He suc­ceeded in in­tim­i­dat­ing Soo­bra­money, who moved to Johannesburg.

False al­le­ga­tions

I con­tacted the Sun­day Times’s then ed­i­tor, Ray Hart­ley, and de­manded to be heard in terms of the audi altarem partem (lis­ten to the other side) rule be­fore the ar­ti­cles were pub­lished. Hof­s­tat­ter ar­rived at my of­fice at Durban SAPS head­quar­ters and we had a recorded tele­con­fer­ence with Wa Afrika.

I made it clear to them that many of their al­le­ga­tions were false and con­tained in­ac­cu­ra­cies. I in­formed them that on a num­ber of points I had a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ver­sion and di­rected them to the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA), the SAPS Air Wing and Durban Cen­tral Po­lice Sta­tion, where my ver­sion of events would be cor­rob­o­rated. More­over, I told Hof­s­tat­ter that some pho­to­graphs he had of dead sus­pects had noth­ing to do with Cato Manor. I also in­formed them that their sources — who were known to me — were be­ing crim­i­nally in­ves­ti­gated by the Hawks.

But when the ar­ti­cles ap­peared a week later it was patently ev­i­dent that no ef­fort had been made to ver­ify facts with the in­sti­tu­tions I had re­ferred them to. In­stead, the ver­sions of the sus­pects un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion were pub­lished.

Al­though I told Hof­s­tat­ter that some of the pho­to­graphs had noth­ing to do with

Cato Manor, a grue­some pic­ture of five dead bod­ies was pub­lished with the ar­ti­cles. As it turned out, the de­ceased per­sons were shot by the dog unit af­ter rob­bing a butch­ery in Durban. The ar­ti­cle also falsely im­plied that Cato Manor killed a group of peo­ple, though they were ac­tu­ally shot by the Inanda po­lice.

Col­lud­ing with sus­pects

It would emerge that Hof­s­tat­ter and Wa Afrika had not only ab­ro­gated their obli­ga­tions as in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ists in check­ing facts and their sources, Wa Afrika had also ac­tively col­luded with one of the sus­pects, Thoshan Pan­day. In­tel­li­gence, ob­tained by Col Brian Pa­day­achee from crime in­tel­li­gence re­vealed that Wa Afrika told Pan­day to ob­tain a cer­tain po­lice docket that would re­veal how I had in­ter­cepted a sus­pect in a he­li­copter so that he could be killed by Cato Manor de­tec­tives. Act­ing on Wa Afrika’s in­struc­tion, Pan­day had re­quested a cap­tain at Moun­tain Rise po­lice sta­tion to sur­rep­ti­tiously ob­tain the docket. The po­lice­man was un­able to lo­cate it.

On an­other oc­ca­sion, Wa Afrika flew to Durban to meet Pan­day to ob­tain pho­to­graphs on a CD disc that would im­pli­cate me in mur­ders. But when Wa Afrika met Pan­day at the Gate­way shop­ping com­plex in Umhlanga Rocks, Pan­day told him that “the disc had been sold to Carte Blanche”. This was de­nied by Carte Blanche.

The truth is that nei­ther the CD nor the in­crim­i­nat­ing docket ex­isted. But this didn’t stop Hof­s­tat­ter and Wa Afrika writ­ing that I had landed “vic­to­ri­ously” at the shoot­ing scene “min­utes” af­ter the shoot­ing. In truth, I got to the scene 90 min­utes af­ter the shoot­ing, by which time many of KwaZu­luNatal’s me­dia were al­ready there. It was part of an elab­o­rate scheme by in­di­vid­u­als who had an in­ter­est in dis­cred­it­ing me be­cause of my in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

Tainted sources

Su­san Smuts of the Sun­day Times later ad­mit­ted in cor­re­spon­dence to the press om­buds­man that an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer, Col NH Sing (now de­ceased), had been one of their sources. Sing was him­self un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for loot­ing the slush fund, along with Mdluli, Maj-Gen Solly Lazarus, whose fam­ily went on a trip abroad; Gen Manoko Nchwe, who was gifted an Audi Q5; and the erst­while min­is­ter of po­lice, Nathi Mthethwa, who had a R190,000 fence built at his pri­vate home.

Af­ter the Sun­day Times “ex­posé”, Mthethwa wielded un­due po­lit­i­cal pres­sure on prose­cu­tors to ar­rest and charge me and the Cato Manor de­tec­tives. Ac­cord­ing to min­utes of a meet­ing on March 8 2012 be­tween prose­cu­tors and Mthethwa, he ex­erted pres­sure on the prose­cu­tors. In­for­ma­tion that SAPS had at its dis­posal in the first place was used to neu­tralise me and the unit. Why did it have to be “leaked” to the Sun­day Times be­fore the po­lice could act?

It later be­came ap­par­ent that crim­i­nal el­e­ments within crime in­tel­li­gence, cor­rupt busi­ness­men and even politi­cians used the same re­porters — Hof­s­tat­ter, Wa Afrika and Piet Ram­pedi — to ped­dle false sto­ries. Among these sto­ries were those of the South African Rev­enue Ser­vice (Sars) “rogue unit” saga and the al­le­ga­tions of il­le­gal ren­di­tion against the Hawks head and my boss at the time, Anwa Dra­mat.

The fall­out of these in­vented sto­ries was that ded­i­cated of­fi­cials within the Hawks and Sars were os­tracised, sus­pended and worked out of the sys­tem — peo­ple like Dra­mat, Shadrack Sibiya, Jo­hann van Log­geren­berg, Ivan Pil­lay, Adrian Lackay, Yolisa Pikie and my­self were neu­tralised. Robert McBride and Pravin Gord­han be­came sec­ondary vic­tims. High-level in­ves­ti­ga­tions were con­se­quently com­pro­mised as de­tec­tives and Sars of­fi­cials were ar­rested on bo­gus charges.

Fod­der for ca­bal

The ar­ti­cles pro­vided fod­der for a ca­bal in the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity (NPA) that per­se­cuted those who in­ves­ti­gated their cor­rupt masters, which in turn ef­fec­tively shielded their masters from prose­cu­tion.

The af­ter­math of these ar­ti­cles can­not be mea­sured in mone­tary terms. The Hawks and Sars be­came dys­func­tional and lives were ru­ined.

On a per­sonal level, I had to en­dure the in­dig­nity of be­ing ar­rested and hand­cuffed like a dan­ger­ous crim­i­nal in full view of my staff, while Cato Manor de­tec­tives were ar­rested at home in front of their fam­i­lies. Many are shad­ows of the top de­tec­tives they once were. Their per­sonal lives are in tat­ters and most are cash-strapped.

On a pos­i­tive note, thanks to the Sun­day Times, I wrote a best­selling book, Blood on their Hands, some­thing I never thought I would do. I was in­formed by prose­cu­tors that Thoshan Pan­day and his po­lice ac­com­plices are fi­nally go­ing to stand trial for at­tempt­ing to bribe me. Mma­mon­nye Ngobeni, the KZN pro­vin­cial com­mis­sioner, who had links with Pan­day, is sus­pended and fac­ing an in­quiry into her fit­ness as a po­lice of­fi­cer.

Shaun Abra­hams (NPA) and Bern­ing Ntle­meza (Hawks) have been re­moved by the courts. Col Rajen Aiyer, who was used by the NPA to falsely im­pli­cate me in crim­i­nal of­fences, was ar­rested and charged with per­jury by the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate. He was dis­missed from SAPS. I have been ap­proached to tes­tify at the Zondo state cap­ture in­quiry as to how the Hawks, SAPS and the NPA were cap­tured. Many syco­phants, es­pe­cially within the NPA, are still pur­su­ing this ne­far­i­ous agenda. I am con­fi­dent that they will be ex­posed as oth­ers have been.

I am grate­ful to the Sun­day Times ed­i­tor, Bon­gani Siqoko, who has shown great courage and lead­er­ship to ad­dress wrongs that hap­pened un­der his pre­de­ces­sors’ watch. Jour­nal­ists in our coun­try must never again be used to pro­mote the agenda of crim­i­nals and cor­rupt politi­cians. If they are, proper gate­keep­ing ought to be in place at ed­i­to­rial level.

I am grate­ful to the cur­rent Sun­day Times ed­i­tor, Bon­gani Siqoko, who has shown great courage and lead­er­ship to ad­dress wrongs that hap­pened un­der his pre­de­ces­sors’ watch

Jo­han Booy­sen

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