Just a routine Sunday racial profiling, Miss

Esethu Mcinjana. Picture:  Ella Ndongeni/GroundUp
Esethu Mcinjana. Picture: Ella Ndongeni/GroundUp

It was her first job interview and Esethu Mcinjana (23) wanted to make a good impression on the bosses at Premier Hotels and Resorts in Sea Point, Cape Town.

So she arrived early and went to wait for her meeting on a public bench near Beach Road.

She could never have imagined that when the police approached her demanding to know what she was doing there and began searching her bag, she would be accused of being a car thief and would spend the night in a jail cell, GroundUp reported last week.

Now the Western Cape police have begun an investigation into the conduct of the two officers, one of whose face has gone viral after Mcinjana photographed her.

Mcinjana had received an invitation to apply for a learnership at Premier Hotels and arrived in good time for her appointment last Sunday.

Because no one was there to let her in, she decided to wait on a nearby bench.

“A female cop approached me while I was sitting, taking pictures of myself, and asked me what I was doing there. She said: ‘What are you doing here? What brings you to my area?’” Mcinjana said.

“I was so confused and I explained that I had an interview. She said I was lying; there is no interview on a Sunday. She didn’t even give me time to show her the email and began searching my belongings.”

The officer found a remote control device for a gate in Mcinjana’s bag and assumed she was a car thief.

“After some time she contacted her colleague on the phone and told him she ‘got what [she] wanted’ and he came with a van. I began taking a video of the incident and in no time they arrested me and were communicating in Afrikaans, which I could not understand.”

A police officer searches Mcinjana’s bag

Mcinjana said when she arrived at Sea Point Police Station a police officer advised her not to write a statement “because I would have to argue in court”.

“I was really frantic, in tears, and angry. They arrested me on Sunday and refused to let me inform my mother. They told me I would appear in court on Tuesday. But one cop picked up that something was not right with this whole incident and gave me a phone to call my mother, who arrived and was only spared two minutes with me,” she said.

“They asked her to write a statement explaining what I was doing at Sea Point and why I had a remote [control]. It was only later that they released me.”

Mcinjana says she has since had lawyers offering to help her with the case, but is yet to lay a formal complaint.

“I am so grateful for public support and the media who have been standing with me,” she said, before bursting into tears.

Mcinjana’s mother, Margaret, her family’s sole bread winner, who works in protection services at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, said her daughter’s only crime was being black.

“I am deeply hurt and traumatised from hearing what my daughter went through ... Police found keys and a remote [control] in her bag, and implied that she was using it to steal people’s cars. The police made allegations, but had no evidence of what they were saying,” she said.

“Esethu is so young and she was subjected to racist police who basically imposed a dompas system on her for sitting on a public bench. My daughter was looking forward to her interview and the prospect of employment. She is being punished because she is black and her sin is arriving early and sitting at a bench.

“She still has not been given her house keys and her remote [control], which is not even functional; she uses it as a key holder. We are not thieves, we are citizens in this country.”

Pamela Truter, executive assistant at Premier Hotels and Resorts, said the hotel was aware of what happened and would be calling Mcinjana for another interview.

The Western Cape police department said it was investigating the matter.

“The investigation is led by a senior police officer from the Cape Town cluster,” said Brigadier Novela Potelwa in a statement.

“SAPS [the SA Police Service] wishes to reiterate its commitment to upholding the Constitution ... and that espouses the principles of human rights. In addition, police officials are expected to abide by the tenets of the SAPS Code of Conduct, which speaks to the treatment of everyone in a humane manner. If any police official is found to have transgressed any aspect cited above, decisive action will be taken.”


Have you experienced police misconduct? Did you report it and was there recourse?

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