Residents in Lesseyton have denounced the allegedly brutal attack imposed by law enforcement officials during a police operation conducted there recently.
A video clip of a commotion between residents and police officers was shared on social media platforms where residents claimed the attack was unprovoked.
Speaking to The Rep, Bongani Tyhobeka said he was spending time with friends at Freedom Tavern on Sunday afternoon (September 27) when he incurred head injuries. It was reported that police had allegedly shot and attacked patrons and other community members who were outside the tavern. “They came inside and I thought they were monitoring Covid-19 compliance. The next thing, we were forcefully chased out without an explanation. My friend was pepper-sprayed and as I tried to reach out to help him a gun was pointed at me. One police officer threw an object I could not identify on the ground as I was running, and that is when I felt something hit my head.”
Tyhobeka said he was taken to hospital by the tavern owner for medical attention and insisted on opening a case for what he called ‘the brutal attack’.
Owner of Freedom Tavern Vuyo Nathaniel said when the officials entered his premises no explanation or valid documentation was produced. Instead an order to close down his tavern was passed. “They demanded to see my trading licence. When I questioned reasons for the visit I was approached with a bad attitude.” Nathaniel said he had taken the matter up with the liquor board and had reported it to the police. He said the issue was going to be further addressed today (Friday). Nathaniel indicated that his business had been closed since Sunday, adding that he had lost a number of customers.
The outraged community members later barricaded the N6 with burning objects in retaliation, but were reportedly dispersed by the police.
“According to our knowledge, the Public Order Policing (POP) unit is called when there is a life-threatening situation. There was no riot, but people were physically attacked. Out of anger they blockaded the N6, demanding answers for this action. Police officers are there to protect community members. When they come out to attack and shoot us, what does that mean? This brutality ought to be looked into. They left without explaining why there were here. Instead we were told that people from Ndlovukazi liked to misbehave. We are still shocked which is why we approached the media so people can be aware of what is taking place. They had proposed a meeting, but nothing has come out of that,” said resident Thembile Waxa. He added that there were taverns operating illegally in the area, but the police failed to go to those premises.
Police spokesperson captain Namhla Mdleleni said ‘Operation Asiqhelwa’ was conducted over the weekend to focus on compliance with Covid-19 regulations at liquor outlets. She said the operation was under the command of the deputy district commissioner, Brigadier Pumla Mavuka, indicating that no shooting had taken place during the operation.
“The operation yielded positive results. There was a search and seizure of dangerous weapons, drugs and secondhand goods. The operation led to the arrest of four suspects for drunken driving, one tavern was closed, two people arrested for selling liquor without licences, two arrested for failure to appoint a manager of a bottle store and one person for dealing in drugs.”
Mdleleni said no case was opened by the residents and, according to information given, no meeting was scheduled between the residents and the police.
Ward 18 Councillor Unathi Mlindazwe said he was informed that two people were shot and upon his arrival the police station, three people had been arrested. He confirmed that the people were later released. Mlindazwe said he received footage of the protest on the N6 before he went to speak to community members. He was, however, forced to leave the scene after residents displayed aggressive behaviour.