Cop allegedly extorted taxi driver transporting abalone

2015-06-15 18:45

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Cape Town - A Western Cape police constable was hard-pressed in court on Monday to explain why he released a taxi driver instead of charging him with operating illegally in the Khayelitsha township.

Prosecutor Xolile Jonas alleges that Constable Mjatya Bukani tried to extort liquor money from taxi driver Wanana Gwadino, whom Bukani caught with abalone in his taxi.

Bukani, 35, pleaded not guilty to a main count of extortion and an alternative count of corruption, before Magistrate Sabrina Sonenberg in the Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Bellville.

According to the charge sheet, Bukani was on patrol on December 8 2010 when he and a colleague searched Gwadino’s taxi, and allegedly found a bag of abalone in it.

The prosecutor alleges that, while taking Gwadino and his two passengers to the Khayelitsha police station, Bukani demanded money for liquor from Gwadino, if Gwadino wanted his taxi back.

It is alleged that Gwadino first offered Bukani R300, which was "too little", and then R500, which Bukani accepted.

It is alleged that Bukani assured Gwadino that he would not be arrested, and that the confiscated abalone as well as the confiscated taxi would be returned to him, if Gwadino paid the R500.

At the police station, however, Bukani allegedly said the R500 was not enough, and he was offered an additional R500.

Gwadino was then allegedly taken to an ATM to withdraw the second R500.

Nothing to do with abalone possession

According to the charge sheet, Gwadino and his two passengers were locked in a holding cell and later released without being charged.

In Monday’s proceedings, Bukani told the court that Gwadino’s arrest had nothing to do with possession of abalone.

Questioned by Andre Pienaar, for the defence, Bukani said he had been on patrol that day when he received an “informal” complaint about a taxi that was operating illegally in Khayelitsha.

Asked by the prosecutor what an “informal” complaint was, Bukani said formal complaints were received via radio control, whereas the complaint about the illegal taxi was merely information given to him by another taxi operator.

Bukani said he later encountered the illegal taxi and confronted the driver (Gwadino).

Gwadino denied that he was in fact operating in Khayelitsha.

Bukani said he did not believe Gwadino and had him locked in a cell at the Khayelitsha police station.

Bukani later went to the Khayelitsha taxi rank to inform legal operators of the arrest.

However, the legal operators did not want to press any charges against Gwadino, merely wanting him warned that he was not permitted to operate in Khayelitsha.

For this reason, he released Gwadino and warned him accordingly.

Argument over R500 fare

However, there was an argument because Gwadino’s passengers had failed to pay their R500 fare, and Bukani said he took one of the passengers to a nearby ATM to draw the money.

Later that night, after he had booked off work, Bukani was called back to the police station and was confronted about the alleged extortion involving the abalone.

Bukani said he was arrested and later appeared in the Somerset West District Court.

Questioned by the prosecutor, Bukani said he should have reported the “informal information” about the illegal taxi operator to radio control, but did not.

Asked why not, he said he did not consider it necessary. Asked why he did not consider it necessary, he said: “I have no explanation.”

Bukani said he wrote the information on a sheet of paper on a clipboard, but did not note the name of the informant.

Asked again why not, he replied: “I cannot explain.”

The case continues on July 10.

Read more on:    cape town  |  crime

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