Police accused of ‘vigilantism’

2008-02-05 00:00

THE police have become the new vigilantes.

This was a statement made by a local businessman after he and his staff allegedly witnessed Mountain Rise police ill-treating men they believed to be illegal immigrants and unlawfully cheating them out of their valuables.

The businessman did not want to be named for fear of being victimised, but said the police had barged into his business last Friday, brandishing firearms in full view of his customers.

When the police closed in on one of the suspects, they allegedly slapped and kicked him around, before dragging him into the police van.

“It is a gross abuse of power. They chase them from the street and barge into our areas of business without even consulting with us. They don’t offer any search warrants or anything. They clap them around and take their money and they are supposed to be cops. Check papers by all means, but follow proper process because we are running a business here.”

He said this has especially become a trend in the Manchester area as police are aware that the immigrants come looking for food and other hand-outs on certain days.

However, he said the police got it wrong last Friday, when they gave chase to a cousin of one of his employees, currently visiting from Malawi.

Recounting his ordeal, the victim said he was in South Africa only for a short visit and yet he has allegedy been a victim of this crime twice already.

He said that after being shoved into the police van, he found seven others like him fearfully awaiting their fate.

“I knew they would not take us to the police station from experience. They beat me up, took the R200 I had on me and dropped me off in Raisethorpe.”

According to the victim, four others were released with him, while another four remained confined because they could not pay for the bribe.

“It is really not right. Last time they took my cellphone,” said the emotional victim.

Senior Superintendent Henry Budhram said the SAPS is experiencing an influx of illegal immigrants and together with the Home Affairs Department, attempts are being made to curb the problem.

On allegations of violent crimes and extortion of money, he said the matter will be investigated.

sphumem@witness.co.za

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