Woman humiliated by alleged strip-search ordeal

2018-04-18 17:24
Nombuso Dlamini (54)  was accused of shoplifting at a Game store in the city centre  and alleges she was kept waiting in view of other customers and later strip-searched.

Nombuso Dlamini (54) was accused of shoplifting at a Game store in the city centre and alleges she was kept waiting in view of other customers and later strip-searched. (Ian Carbutt)

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A woman from France township was left “humiliated and embarrassed” after she was accused of shoplifting and claims to have been strip-searched in a city supermarket.

Elisabeth Ric Hansen, the marketing manager of the store, Game, said it was not their policy to strip­- search customers suspected of shoplifting but alleged that it was the woman who insisted to “lift her clothes to show them proof” that she had not stolen anything.

Nombuso Dlamini (54), who sells vegetables on East Street, said she had visited Game to open an account when the incident occurred.

“As I was walking out of the store the security beams started beeping and the security guard asked me if I had stolen anything from the shop and I said no. He took my bag and ran it through the beams but they didn’t go off. When I walked through they started beeping again,” she said.

Dlamini was then instructed to wait near the tills, she said she ended up waiting there for about three hours. “While I was standing there, other customers, staff members and some people I knew from my neighbourhood asked why I was standing there and I had to tell them that I was accused of shoplifting. It was so degrading and humiliating, I felt so little and I ended up in tears,” she said.

Eventually the store manager was called and he allegedly instructed a female security guard and a store employee to take Dlamini to the back and strip-search her.

Dlamini said after the two women were satisfied that she had not stolen anything, the manager was called in, along with other employees and they started apologising for falsely accusing her.

“They said I should take whatever I wanted from the store but I refused,” said Dlamini.

The police were called and they arrived at the store after 8 pm. She has hired a lawyer to handle the matter.

Hansen said the store’s policy was that reasonable suspicions would be investigated by requesting the customer to step aside from public view and conduct a bag search.

“The store did not feel it was necessary to call the police and were prepared to let this customer [go] very shortly after the sensomatics alarmed, but [Dlamini] insisted on calling the police and waiting accordingly to prove her innocence,” she said.

Hansen denied that Dlamini was offered anything at the store as an apology. “The store apologised and offered further assistance to the customer should she require transport from the store,” she said.

Pietermaritzburg police spokesperson Sergeant Mthokozisi Ngobese said no case was registered but added: “Stores are not allowed to strip-search customers, if they suspect that someone has shoplifted, the police should be called to investigate further.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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