'I felt like a terrorist' - Former 'SA's Got Talent' winner recovers after alleged assault by SANDF soldiers

James Bhemgee after he was allegedly harassed and assaulted by SANDF members during a raid. (Supplied: Ashley Pienaar)
James Bhemgee after he was allegedly harassed and assaulted by SANDF members during a raid. (Supplied: Ashley Pienaar)

Cape Town opera singer James Bhemgee says he was assaulted and harassed by South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers during a raid on Tuesday, adding that he was treated like a "terrorist".

Bhemgee, a former street sweeper, became a household name after winning SA's Got Talent in 2010.

According to Bhemgee, the raid happened around 13:30 at a house he is staying at in Mitchell's Plain. 

After the ordeal, Bhemgee was treated at the Mitchells Plain Day Hospital.

Speaking to News24 on Wednesday, Bhemgee said he was still in pain, having suffered injuries to his eyes, ribs and neck.

'I felt like a terrorist'

"I was confused by what was happening," he said.

Five people were in the house when the raid took place, according to Bhemgee. 

"They entered and told everyone to get onto the ground and started beating and searching everyone. They kept asking where the drugs are. I felt like a terrorist… I felt like a terrorist," he emphasised.

Bhemgee further questioned the army's modus operandi during raids. He said that, while he supported the army's presence in crime hotspots, "there's no need for the violence I was subjected to".

Responding to queries from News24, SANDF spokesperson General Mafi Mgobozi urged community members who were harassed or assaulted by members of the army to file reports with police so they can be investigated.

Internal investigation

He added that they had taken note of the allegations by Bhemgee.

"Upon such exposés, the SANDF has convened an internal investigation to determine the basis of these allegations," Mgobozi said.

Bhemgee, who has since been discharged from hospital, said he was still waiting for advice from his legal team before pressing charges.

He added that he was scheduled to perform at an event on Friday, but given his condition, he wasn’t sure if he would still be able to honour that commitment.

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