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Blind busker in cop attack has last laugh

Cape Town - A recording offer is on the cards for blind busker Lunga Goodman Nono, who was forcefully moved by metro police officers on Monday for allegedly contravening city by-laws by performing for longer than his permit allowed.

Nono’s guitar was smashed by several metro police in front of his wife, Abigail, and 10-year-old daughter, Portia. A passer-by who saw the incident has bought Nono a new guitar.

Busker Lunga Goodman Nono inside his home in Delft with his new guitar. His old guitar was damaged by police when they forcefully removed him from St George's Mall. Photo: Henk Kruger. Credit: CAPE ARGUS

After video footage of the incident went viral on social media, people from across the country lambasted the metro police for what they called unnecessary brutality. Rolling Stone SA magazine called for donations for a new guitar from its readers and South African award-winning acoustic guitarist Tony Cox heard the plea.

Also heeding the call, The Rooftop Recording Studio’s Matthew Davison has offered to record and mix a song for Nono, to post on YouTube and other online music video channels.

“We are also going to record a short personal video clip about Nono to post online so people can know more about him and where they can give donations,” said Davison. “We were touched by what we saw in the footage and felt we had to do something to encourage him with his music.”

For the first time in five years Nono, who was blinded by meningitis at the age of one, took an unplanned day off on Tuesday to recover at home. Speaking to the Cape Argus in his two-bedroomed shack in Delft, he said he had a sore chest and back.

He said about six metro police officers approached him on Monday and asked him to stop performing at his usual spot on the corner of St George’s Mall and Shortmarket Street, where he has performed since 2008. “They didn’t give a reason why they wanted me to leave, or who had complained.

“When I refused to leave, they dragged me down and took my guitar. One of them pressed me on the chest and the other on my knee. I was scared as I could tell there was a lot of them… they had me surrounded.”

Nono and his wife of 13 years follow a strict routine. They wake at 5.30am, boil water on their gas stove for bathing, and then their daughter leaves for school.

Abigail and Nono leave the house at 9am to take a minibus to town. When they get to St George’s Mall at about 10am, Abigail buys breakfast for her husband, such as a pie or sausage roll and coffee, while he gets ready to play.

Nono sits on an upturned crate while playing mostly gospel songs. Abigail sits on a bench nearby and watches him until they leave at 2pm.

Nono makes about R150 a day, or R200 on a good day. He also sells his CDs for R80. Although he receives a disability grant, playing the guitar is their main income. They take a break only in January and at weekends.

Nono learnt to play the guitar as an eight-year-old at a school for the blind in Mthatha.

He now has to pay a R1 500 fine.

The City of Cape Town said on Tuesday the conduct of the metro police officers involved would be investigated. The mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, said Nono had permission to busk only between 12.45pm and 2pm on weekdays. But he had “repeatedly disregarded regulations and was verbally abusive” to city officials for months.

Nono denied this, saying he suspected complaints had been lodged by a shopkeeper opposite his spot. The manager was off sick on Tuesday when the Cape Argus visited the shop.

Nono said: “Ever since they started trading in March I’ve had law enforcement asking me to leave. I’ve never had that before… people support me and enjoy my music.”

The couple have since obtained an interim protection order from the Western Cape High Court, which says he can trade from 10am until 4pm. Nono said: “How am I suppose to make money if I work for less than two hours in the afternoon?”

Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said Nono had opened a case of malicious damage to property at the Cape Town Central police station on Monday.

“The circumstances are currently under investigation. No one has been charged yet.”

Tony Ehrenreich, the secretary of Cosatu in the Western Cape and a city councillor, called for Smith’s suspension.

He said the ruling DA had no regard for poor people or knowledge of how to “engage them respectfully”. It was this attitude of treating people’s frustration with disregard that led to “desperate acts of poo-throwing”.

“Smith should be suspended from leading the municipal police until a full investigation is completed into this whole sordid affair,” Ehrenreich said.

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