Meet Gen Johan Booysen – bloodied but unbowed ex-cop still fighting SA’s criminals

Having worked his way from a ‘Bobbie on the Beat’ to a SAPS General when it meant something, former KZN Hawks boss Johan Booysen has lived an adventure. With challenges including mass media vilification through a bizarre stitch-up engineered by criminals (and their captured politicians) through to being wrongly arrested and jailed. This authentic South African hero has paid a high price for following his calling. He retraces some of those footsteps here, sharing deeper insights on Eskom, ANC cadre deployment and other matters of the moment. He spoke to BizNews editor Alec Hogg.

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Relevant timestamps from the interview

  • 00:00 – Introduction 
  • 01:08 – Writing a Book and Potential Movie Adaptation
  • 02:51 – Ongoing Saga and Engagement with State Council
  • 04:42 – Destructive Actions and Those Responsible
  • 07:14 – ANC Cadre Deployment and Political Influence
  • 09:06 – Excessive Number of Generals in the Police Force
  • 10:15 – Challenges Faced by Honest Cops
  • 11:25 – KwaZulu-Natal Organized Crime Unit (Cato Manor)
  • 13:40 – Arrest and Imprisonment
  • 18:41 – Investigation at Eskom
  • 21:10 – Attempts on Life and Contract Negotiations
  • 24:05 – Hope for South Africa
  • 24:41 – Conclusions

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Edited transcript of the interview ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Alec Hogg: There’s a headline on Biznews from May 2019 that reads “A good man stands firm while the rogues run free.” It refers to former KZN head of the Hawks, General Johan Booysen, who faced suspension, arrest, and jail time, only to be exonerated years later. General Booysen confronted high-level corruption, including a rogue cop’s attempt to frame him. Welcome, General.

Johan Booysen: Thank you, Alec. We’ve co-written a book. Talks with Netflix have surfaced, but I’ve shifted focus to my role at Fidelity Security.

Alec Hogg: It’s great to hear about your book and your new endeavors. Tell us more about your role at Fidelity.

Johan Booysen: I lead investigations at Fidelity, focusing on combating rising crime, especially cash-in-transit heists.

Alec Hogg: It’s intriguing how private sectors are stepping up against crime. What’s your goal in speaking with us today?

Johan Booysen: This saga, starting in 2011, culminated in our exoneration in 2019. I’m shedding light on the corruption that tainted the justice system, including my involvement in the state capture commission.

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Alec Hogg: The impact of corruption is devastating. Who was behind it?

Johan Booysen: It’s complex, involving various players with differing agendas. My investigations into high-level corruption stirred opposition, leading to personal attacks and interference.

Alec Hogg: The depth of corruption is alarming. Your experiences shed light on the extent of corruption. Did you encounter cadre deployment during your time in the SAPS?

Johan Booysen: Yes, corruption seeped into all levels of governance, affecting even law enforcement. My investigations often intersected with political interests, revealing the pervasive nature of corruption.

Johan Booysen: Our first experience of cadre deployment was with the appointment of Jackie Selebi as the National Commissioner of Police, which we now know was a disaster. He ended up in jail himself. Later on, the appointment of Riah Phiyega, which I think was an even bigger disaster. The problem with cadre deployment, especially in the police, is that it eventually affects lower levels as well. If we have a national commissioner who’s a cadre, she would be appointing her favorites, and that trickles down. Unfortunately, that’s what’s happening in the police. Middle management is being affected by cadre deployment higher up. Eventually, you have people appointed in managerial posts who are not up to the job.

Alec Hogg: Ian Cameron says there are hundreds of generals in the police now who were put there because of political connections rather than merit. Can you provide perspective on this?

Johan Booysen: In 1995, there were only a few generals at national headquarters and brigadiers in the provinces. I don’t know the current number, but it’s substantial, which strains SAPS’s budget. I believe there are too many generals.

Alec Hogg: Didn’t you say it’s something like 200 at the last count? So, we’ve gone from 3 to 200. That’s extraordinary.

Johan Booysen: It could be. There are indeed too many generals.

Alec Hogg: What about the honest cops? What advice would you give them?

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Johan Booysen: There are still many honest and dedicated policemen, but they’re getting despondent. My own ordeal affected not just me but also the Cato Manor unit. If a general can face consequences for investigating senior officers, it makes others wary. They need to think twice before investigating politicians and senior police officers.

Alec Hogg: You’ve mentioned Cato Manor. Can you elaborate?

Johan Booysen: Cato Manor was part of the Durban Organized Crime Unit, not directly under me. The unit dealt with violent crimes. When investigations started, I was targeted and arrested, along with the Cato Manor detectives, on trumped-up charges of racketeering.

Alec Hogg: How did you end up in jail?

Johan Booysen: I offered to cooperate with the investigation but was arrested regardless. They couldn’t find evidence, so they resorted to racketeering charges, allowing them to prosecute me despite lack of direct involvement. It’s been a tumultuous journey.

Alec Hogg: Your story is extraordinary. Where’s your North Star? How do you maintain your integrity?

Johan Booysen: I always emphasized to my detectives the importance of avoiding shortcuts. I adhered strictly to rules and regulations, especially concerning state funds and exhibits. My guiding principle has been my lifelong dedication to being a policeman. It’s more than just a job to me.

Alec Hogg: It’s interesting how attention to detail can make a difference. Speaking of which, did you have any involvement with Andre de Ruyter and the issues at Eskom?

Johan Booysen: I was approached in 2022 to lead investigations into corruption at Eskom but unfortunately, it didn’t materialize. Last year, Minister Bheki Cele approached me again, but the contract didn’t come through. I met with Andre and discussed the matter. Despite our efforts, the investigation didn’t proceed.

Alec Hogg: What were the plans for investigating Eskom?

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Johan Booysen: I was to be appointed on a contract basis with a salary equivalent to that of a police general. I had assembled a team of competent investigators and had informal discussions with prosecutors and members of the investigative directorate. My payment would have been solely from my salary, with no additional payments involved.

Alec Hogg: It’s intriguing that you assembled a formidable team to tackle the issues at Eskom. Do you believe there were attempts to block your efforts or harm you, similar to what Andre de Ruyter experienced?

Johan Booysen: That’s precisely why I insisted on certain provisions in the contract to prevent facing the same challenges as Andre de Ruyter. As for threats to my life, there was an incident in Pretoria three years ago, initially thought to be an assassination attempt, but it turned out to be a botched hijacking.

Alec Hogg: Looking forward, do you see any positive developments on the horizon for South Africa?

Johan Booysen: We have no choice but to make it work. Despite global challenges, we still enjoy relative peace and can continue to enjoy simple pleasures like having a braai. I remain optimistic about the future of South Africa.

Alec Hogg: Indeed, we must stay positive. This is Alec Hogg from BizNews.com, speaking with General Johan Booysen of ADT Fidelity.

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