'Hit squad' witnesses fear for their lives - IPID

Witnesses are seeking protection after Durban policemen implicated in a ‘hit squad’ were granted bail.

Some members of the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit. Picture: Facebook

JOHANNESBURG - Several people are now seeking witness protection after the KwaZulu-Natal policemen implicated in an alleged hit squad were released on bail.

The Hawks arrested 20 officers from the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit in Durban over a week ago, during a series of raids in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Eighteen officers were granted bail on Friday and charges against two other officers were withdrawn on Thursday.

Officers are facing up to 71 charges, including 14 counts of murder, 14 charges related to defeating the ends of Justice and another 28 for the unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition.

Members are accused of murdering some of the suspects they apprehended, however, officers claim allegations are part of a smear campaign to discredit them.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) spokesperson Moses Dlamini said some witnesses fear for their lives.

He said witnesses want protection until the police officers go on trial.

"People wouldn't leave their houses and schools if there was no need to do so," Dlamini added.

The unit was officially disbanded in February.