Elite cops assault club patrons
Jacques Pauw, City Press
Johannesburg - A controversial special police unit – already implicated in a host of crimes, including murder – has been caught on CCTV showing its members stomping on the patrons of a bar, jumping on one, pouring alcohol on people and kicking and slapping them.
City Press has obtained CCTV footage of the police tactical response team bursting into CJ’s bar in Hillbrow last month, where they assaulted, intimidated and threatened patrons.
Some police officers wore balaclavas and others were armed with R5 assault rifles.
It was the second time this year that the unit has raided CJ’s, witnesses say. They said the first time police threw teargas into the club and then hit, slapped and kicked patrons.
No patrons were arrested in any of the raids and no drugs or guns were found.
The owner of CJ’s – Mauritius-born Raj Itburren – has accused the team of “terrorising” him after he laid a charge of assault against the unit following the first raid.
He claims he lost partial hearing in one ear after being slapped by an officer on his head when he demanded to know why they were raiding his premises.
He says he was also beaten on his knees with a baton.
A Hillbrow police sergeant who happened to be at CJ’s during the first raid was allegedly beaten up and kicked by members of the unit, and has also laid an assault charge against his colleagues.
City Press was told that he was threatened with death if he persisted with his charge.
Last week, the sergeant said it was “better for him” not to speak to City Press. He requested that City Press didn’t use his name and wouldn’t elaborate on the threats against him.
National police spokesperson Sally de Beer said it was a provincial matter and referred City Press to Colonel Neville Malila, the provincial commissioner’s spokesperson.
Malila confirmed that three assault cases were opened at the Hillbrow police station after the raids and that a police officer had claimed to have been assaulted as well. No arrests have been made.
The elite team was set up in 2009 by police boss General Bheki Cele to apprehend armed and dangerous suspects.
But it has rapidly developed a brutal reputation, and some members are facing murder charges.
The raid on CJ’s comes two weeks after tactical response team members were involved in a brawl at late-night Johannesburg restaurant Catz Pyjamas, during which they also beat up patrons.
Their actions resulted in four members being suspended pending an investigation.
City Press has confirmed that footage of the CJ’s raid was shown to senior Hillbrow police officers shortly after the incident – and charges were laid against unit members almost two months ago – but no action has been taken.
The CCTV footage at CJ’s shows:
» Heavily armed officers ordering patrons to lie down on the ground;
» Officers stepping on patrons’ backs;
» Officers throwing beer and liquor over patrons;
» Officers kicking and slapping patrons; and
» Women being pushed around and slapped.
Itburren says there was no need for the second raid and it seems as though it was nothing but retribution for the charges he laid against the officers after the first raid.
He says his turnover has dropped by 70% since the raids.
The tactical response team has allegedly been involved in several similar raids in Joburg over the past few months and is accused of conducting a reign of terror across the city.
A Jeppe club owner – who preferred to remain anonymous – said his patrons were also forced to lie down, after which cops threw beer over them and stepped on their backs.