Cops, pub-goers exchange fire after bar brawl

2011-01-08 00:00

THE case of 14 pub-goers who were accused of exchanging blows and fire with the Cedarville police on Christmas Day after the cops shut down their party, has been provisionally withdrawn by the Matatiele Magistrate’s Court because there was a lack of evidence against them.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Raphael Motloung said the suspects were arrested on Christmas Day after they allegedly attacked police who were cracking down on illegal shebeens in a bid to maintain peace in the early hours of Christmas morning.

“Police approached the Cedarville Hotel bar to demand that it close its doors as closing time had already lapsed,” said Motloung.

He said the bar manager, Wellington Qokela, agreed and the police left.

“They then came back later to check whether the bar was closed as agreed, but were astonished to find that customers were still drinking freely.”

An argument started and Motloung alleges that the manager became angry, shouting and screaming at police.

“Patrons reacted by throwing bottles of beer and stones at them and then exchanged blows with the police,” said Motloung.

Police fled to the safety of the police station, but the disgruntled drinkers followed them.

Things turned nasty when one of the suspects allegedly drew a gun and fired, damaging a police vehicle. The back window of the police station was also smashed.

Motloung said that police fired back in self defence, injuring two of the attackers.

However, bar owner Costas Christoforou said his manager phoned him at midnight on Christmas Day saying there were problems there.

“When I arrived I saw police shooting and beating up a group of men. I heard a bang as a stone hit my car,” said Christoforou.

He asked the police what was happening because two of his staff were among the group.

“I never got any answers; instead I was beaten up and one of the policemen pointed a gun at my face, threatening to blow my head off,” he said.

“They then opened a case, but no one has come to me for further investigations or to update me,” said Christoforou.

He has decided to take the matter up to the highest levels.

His bar manager Qokela said police never introduced themselves when they initially arrived at the bar.

He said that when the police demanded that the place be closed “customers asked to finish their booze first because they would be arrested for drinking in public if they went out of the bar with their drinks.”

Qokela alleges that when the argument started, police beat up patrons with sticks.

“Customers fought back … three of them were shot in the back and one died at the scene. Police were just shooting at every­one …” he said.

Police spokesperson for the Eastern Cape Lieutenant Colonel Sibongile Soci denied anyone died in the incident.

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