Cops decline to help victim

2016-08-16 06:00

TWO policemen who refused to help a businessman after he was held at knifepoint said they were unable to act because they were outside their station’s jurisdiction.

A furious Vinesh Sonkota is demanding answers after the Hillcrest officers, who were in a marked vehicle just metres away, turned him away after three men ransacked his vehicle while holding him at knifepoint in Pinetown on Wednesday morning.

Sonkota was on his way to Pietermaritzburg from a business meeting in Pinetown when he was caught in almost standstill traffic on Crompton Street. With his window wound halfway down, he spotted three men weaving through the traffic queue, a sight he said is not uncommon at busy intersections.

As the men passed his bakkie, one suddenly spun around and thrust his hand into the vehicle. Sonkota, who was travelling alone, said the man swiftly reached for his keys in the ignition. At the same time, the man’s accomplice loitering on the passenger side began yanking at the door handle.

With nowhere to go, Sonkota soon had two 15-centimetre-long knives up against him — one held to his throat and the other to his chest. “The two men on my side each had a knife and they kept screaming at the other, telling him to stab me. ‘Poke him. Poke him’,” Sonkota said.

His attackers ordered him to unlock the doors of his new Toyota Hilux, at which time the accomplice on the passenger side got in and began ransacking the vehicle for valuables. “I think they wanted to steal the bakkie, but realised they would have had nowhere to go in the traffic. So they just took what they could,” Sonkota said.

The robbers made off with his cellphone, cash, navigation system, digital camera and watch. During the minute-long ordeal, two police officers were also stuck in traffic behind Sonkota, with a single vehicle separating them.

Sonkota said he pulled his bakkie to the roadside when the men fled and immediately tried to flag down the officers as the traffic started edging forward. “They completely ignored me. One officer was in uniform and the other was in plain clothes. I had to run across the front of their vehicle to stop them,” he said. “I tried explaining what had happened and the officer driving said I should go to the Pinetown police for assistance.”

Sonkota quoted the officer saying, “Look at the sticker; it says we are Hillcrest police. This is not Hillcrest. You must ask Pinetown to help.” Shocked at their response, Sonkota drove back to Pietermaritzburg and opened a case at Alexandra Road police station.

“Imagine having the police right behind you and still being left alone to fend off crime … Officers take an oath to protect and to serve, no matter the area. Maybe they would have investigated if I was killed,” Sonkota said.

It was unclear if the officers had seen the robbery take place, but Sonkota said they should have come to his aid when he asked.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker said Sonkota should report the matter so it could be investigated with a view to disciplining the officers involved.

“It is unacceptable for a police officer to refuse to assist a member of the public even if he is out of his police precinct,” Naicker said.

Speaking to The Witness on Wednesday, a senior policeman who is not mandated to speak to the media said all officers have a duty to assist the public, whether they are in their station’s jurisdiction or not. He said even an off-duty officer should never “be a bystander to crime”.

“The unfortunate thing is that this does happen. Some officers have become lax and do only what they are told to do by their seniors.

“They have forgotten what we are really here for,” the officer said.

• On Monday, Durban businessman and ANC backer Visvin Reddy was also stabbed twice while stuck in the slow-moving traffic of Pinetown’s central business district. It was the second time the Reddys were robbed in Pinetown.

“People are getting mugged and robbed here on a daily basis and this all is being brushed under the carpet. This is a common problem,” he said.

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