On the eve of Reconciliation Day, a disabled homeless teen was allegedly beaten up in the exclusive Atlantic Seaboard in Sea Point, Cape Town, by a restaurant owner who was a contestant on the M-Net show MasterChef SA.
The victim, believed to be 17 years old, and who has one leg, was allegedly assaulted with his own crutches by Baked Bistro owner Zahir Mohamed at about 1pm on Thursday.
Mohamed, however, insists he acted in self-defence.
An eyewitness who saw the alleged assault and took pictures of what happened through the bistro’s window, told City Press on Saturday that Mohamed dragged the homeless man into his restaurant, closed the door and asked his staff to hold him down while he allegedly beat him with his crutches. He said he knew the teen because he often walked around the area begging for money.
“I couldn’t intervene as I was locked outside the restaurant, but the man was making loud cries asking for help,” said the man, who asked not to be named.
The eyewitness claimed he was in another shop nearby when he heard the homeless man screaming while he was being assaulted.
He rushed outside to look and recognised him as a man who routinely walked around the area begging for money.
The man said the assault lasted about 10 minutes, and the young man was in such pain that nearby revellers called the police to intervene.
The eyewitness said when he approached Mohamed afterwards to find out why the young man had been beaten, he was told that the teen had broken the glass pane on the door of his restaurant.
“To beat him was really uncalled for. He could at least have called the police. There’s no humility. He smashed him with his crutches. He made such a horrible noise. What Zahir did was disgusting. I’m willing to testify if a case is opened,” he said.
Paramedics were called and the teen was taken to an unnamed hospital.
Mohamed confirmed the incident, but claimed he was the one who was attacked by the teen.
“Please understand, these accusations are not correct and I have not done anything wrong. I defended myself because I was being attacked. My business is incredibly important to me as I’ve worked hard for it. I would not harm people, but I was genuinely protecting myself and my business,” he said.
Mohamed said he and his staff were cashing up when the young man ran into his restaurant after he was chased by one of the petrol attendants from the BP garage next door “for doing something wrong over there”.
“I threw him out, but he would not stop banging on my door. I asked him more than 10 times to stop and he did not listen and then he smashed my window. As I opened the door to go outside, he hit me with his crutch over the shoulder. At this point, how am I not being threatened? My window has been smashed and I was hit? Please understand this is incorrect and I am being made out to be someone I am not,” he said.
Mohamed added: “I don’t get into trouble; I am passionate about my business and that’s what I focus on. I’m not sure what those accusations are about or where they come from. I understand you have a job to do, but I feel it is my right as a human to defend myself if I am in danger.
“What if I had been stabbed? What if he hit me over my head and knocked me out? What then? The window he smashed costs R15 000 to repair. Who’s going to pay for that? It’s not insured. I have to pay. And I am being made out to be some nasty person for protecting myself.”
Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said a case of malicious damage to property had been registered at Sea Point police station relating to an incident.
“The circumstances surrounding the matter are being investigated and no one has been arrested as yet.”
Traut said that a case of assault had not yet been reported.
The alleged assault comes less than a month after DA Atlantic Seaboard councillor Shayne Ramsay posted on Facebook about a planned march against homeless people on Sea Point. In her post, Ramsay said “our garbage bins are treated as buffet tables” by the homeless. While exhorting residents not to give to the poor so that they “move elsewhere”, she said the homeless on the Atlantic Seaboard could be placed into three categories – “criminals (who are in and out of overcrowded prisons), mentally ill or social outcasts, and those who are genuinely down on their luck”.
Mohamed, who is in his twenties, went out of the MasterChef competition in the early rounds. He told The Times in June 2013 that he begged and borrowed and sold his dream Mini Cooper S to open Baked Bistro.
“I’ve always wanted to own a little bakery-café and I had my eye on this location for three years. It’s a little community and it’s perfect,” he told the publication.
“When I came up with the concept for Baked Bistro my friends laughed and said I was ‘baked in the head’. I never gave up.”