Cops arrested for stealing foreigners’ groceries face internal charges to boot

2014-03-13 16:57

Four Mpumalanga policemen, who allegedly stole groceries belonging to Somali nationals, will face internal misconduct charges after their arrest last week.

The police officers were caught after one of the Somalians took pictures of them with his cellphone as they loaded items into their van when Pienaar residents near Nelspruit began looting their shops.

The locals ran amok on March 2 after the funeral of 20-year-old learner Wellington Dube. He was allegedly shot dead by a Somalian after a fist-fight on February 25.

Residents vandalised and looted shops owned by Somalians in retaliation for Dube’s death.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi said the four constables – Bonginkosi Meela (30), Dumisani Ziyana (36), Themba Mathebula (32) and Abednigo Mkhatshwa (34) – have been criminally charged for theft, the possession of suspected stolen property and defeating the ends of justice.

Hlathi said the groceries were found at a house in Pienaar and the homeowner told police the officers had sold it to her for R2 500. The groceries were valued at R4 000.

The men are out on R1 000 bail each and their next court appearance is at the KaBokweni Magistrates’ Court on April 3.

Said Hlathi: “We’re definitely going to bring internal charges of misconduct against them. The investigations are under way.”

The situation in Pienaar almost got out of hand when it was alleged that, a day after the violence, the Somalians had poisoned water reservoirs.

Read: Municipality falls for poisoned-water hoax

The Mbombela municipality subsequently shut down the water supply and flushed out the reservoirs. Samples were sent to a laboratory for testing.

The results found there was nothing wrong with the water. It turned out that the message, sent via SMS to councillors, was a hoax.

Hlathi said police had not yet established the source of the message.

Mbombela mayor Cathy Dlamini apologised to Somali nationals when she met them last week.

“I’ll have to apologise to you on behalf of those people who lied using your name. This was done by one naughty person who wanted us to panic,” Dlamini said.

She has promised to meet foreign nationals regularly to attend to their problems.

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