Facebook users, many claiming to be victims of crimes solved by Durban’s disbanded Organised Crime Unit, have donated thousands of rands towards the alleged hit squad’s legal fees.
But the group has been slammed for being “insensitive” to the families of those allegedly murdered in cold blood by the unit.
The group – Durban Organised Crime Unit KZN – was created by Penny Katz two weeks ago.
Katz yesterday said that a trust to raise funds for th e police officers’ legal battle against their suspensions has been launched and R37800 has been donated so far.
“It is indeed heart-warming to see that people have donated money to support police officers that some may have not even met. I know that the money will make a difference,” Katz said.
Katz said she started the Facebook group because she wanted to “show the unit that I am forever grateful to them”.
“A family member was a victim of crime. It was only after the Cato Manor unit took over the matter that the perpetrator was brought to book. I felt that I had to do something to show them my support.”
The controversial Cato Manor’s serious and violent crimes unit, under the command of suspended KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss Major-General Johan Booysen, operated as an alleged hit squad, with witnesses claiming they “executed” suspects and then held alcohol-fuelled parties.
A picture shown above shows members of the unit celebrating after allegedly killing a suspect, with the victim’s wife next to them while they celebrate.
At least about 51 suspicious killings have been linked to the so-called Cato Manor “hit squad”. The unit has since been suspended.
Senior police officers yesterday raised concerns about the financial support the Cator Manor officers were getting from the Facebook group.
Those who spoke on the issue said this might send a wrong message to the community.
One officer said the donations were becoming a “hot potato” for police leadership.
“These donations might send a message that as long as police continue to murder innocent Africans they will be supported, and in this case it’s even worse because most of the victims are Black while those alleged to have killed them are White.
“The donations might be viewed in other sections of our community as insensitive,” the officer said.
Since the unit’s alleged crimes were exposed, communities have asked for government intervention.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and the ANCYL have demanded answers about the police unit.
The Independent Complaints Directorate, which was expected to have investigated the killings, has been slammed. This led to its head of investigations in KwaZulu-Natal being suspended last month.
According to Facebook statistics, the group is mentioned on the social networking site at least 500 times a day. The supporters are aged between 35 and 44, White and most of them live in Durban.
Katz said the group’s wall spoke for itself.
“People out there, mainly White South Africans support these officers despite the alleged crimes they have committed most of the people in the group claimed to have been victims of crime.
“Yes, there are people who hate them and are outraged but I think there are more people that support them.”
Booysen and 10 officers were served with notices informing them of possible suspensions.
Booysen won an interdict preventing the Hawks from carrying out his suspension while the 10 officers, through lawyer Carl van der Merwe, have written to the state demanding to know the reasons for the proposed suspensions.
Katz said the disbanded unit was aware of the group.
“They all know about the group and are aware that we are raising funds. The money is going straight into their lawyer’s account. It is going to no one else.” she said.