Shamila Batohi withdraws charges of racketeering against Johan Booysen
Batohi has withdrawn the racketeering charges against Booysen and his co-accused after they were reviewed by a panel
National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) boss Shamila Batohi has decided to withdraw racketeering charges against Johan Booysen, the former KwaZulu-Natal head of SA's elite crime-fighting investigative unit the Hawks.
The decision to prosecute Booysen by former deputy national director of public prosecutions Nomgcobo Jiba, who was the acting head of the NPA at the time, was alleged to have been politically motivated and is one of the most controversial decisions taken by the authority over the past decade.
On Tuesday morning, the NPA said in a statement that Batohi had decided to withdraw the racketeering charges against Booysen and his co-accused after they were reviewed by a panel. The accused individuals and the prosecutors in the case had been informed of the move.
Jiba’s decision and her conduct as it related to the case was looked at in detail by the Mokgoro inquiry earlier in 2019. This was one of the reasons it found her unfit to hold office, and resulted in her being fired by President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The unabridged report noted that the evidence suggest that “something unusual transpired in the process of authorising the racketeering charges against Booysen”.
“More specifically, that the authorisation and prosecution of Booysen took place outside of the ordinary procedures that were in place at the NPA,” the report said.
Booysen told the state capture inquiry earlier in 2019 that he was charged with racketeering for blocking the business interests of Jacob Zuma's son, Edward Zuma.
Booysen maintained that Jiba used insufficient evidence to charge him, as the affidavits she had relied on did not implicate him in any crime.
The decision to charge Booysen was reviewed and set aside by a court, but former national director of public prosecutions Shaun Abrahams charged Booysen again in February 2016.
Booysen and his co-accused brought high court applications, including against the NPA, to review that decision.
“In the circumstances, the NDPP [Batohi] needed to decide what the NPA's position will be in the litigation; this required that she satisfy herself as to the validity of the authorisations. To this end, the NDPP appointed a panel to review the authorisations and to provide her with an opinion and recommendations,” NPA communications director Bulelwa Makeke said in a statement.
The panel comprised two directors of public prosecutions — advocates Rodney de Kock from the Western Cape and Ivy Thenga from Limpopo, as well as a deputy director of public prosecutions, advocate Shareen Riley and senior state advocate Elijah Mamabolo.
Mamabolo and Riley are part of the NPA unit responsible for organised crime prosecutions, with particular expertise in racketeering prosecutions.
“The panel finalised its review and submitted a report with recommendations to the NDPP. The unanimous conclusion of the panel is that ‘in respect of the authorisations, a proper case was not made out on the papers presented’,” Makeke said.
The panel suggested that the authorisations of both Jiba and Abrahams were “invalid”. After consideration of the report and other material, as well as a discussion with the panel, Batohi decided that authorising racketeering charges was invalid.
“As a result, the racketeering charges will be withdrawn against all the accused. As regards the remaining charges, which include murder, housebreaking, theft and defeating the ends of justice, the NDPP will refer the dockets back to the acting director of public prosecutions KwaZulu-Natal, advocate Elaine Zungu, to reassess the evidence in each case, and decide whether to prosecute individuals who may be implicated in those matters,” Makeke said.
Those charges relate to the alleged actions of the now-disbanded Cato Manor serious and violent crime unit in KwaZulu-Natal, which Booysen had led.