Durban - Mayor James Nxumalo has issued a public apology to the Muslim community after metro police officers stormed a mosque – with their shoes on – while pursuing a parking violator.
“On behalf of council, I want to apologise for the incident. We are sorry,” Nxumalo said. “Metro (police) should have waited for the prayer to finish,” he conceded on Tuesday.
Nxumalo on Tuesday met representatives of the Muslim community at the May Street Mosque in Greyville.
He said people who were angry at the incident had the right to take the matter up, even opening a criminal case if they wanted.
“Let due process take its cause. Being ill treated by your own police, (it’s) your duty and right to open case,” he said.
The incident happened during Friday’s noon prayer at the May Street mosque.
At about 1pm, metro police tried to arrest a man for double parking and obstructing the flow of traffic. The motorist allegedly ran into the mosque with police hot on his heels. It is alleged that the two constables were not allowed into the mosque because they had shoes on.
The constables called for back-up and as soon as it arrived they walked into the mosque to find their man.
Attorney Imraan Shah, who was at the mosque, said he had asked the constables to wait for the prayer session to finish, but they went ahead and disrupted the prayer. It is alleged that an argument broke out outside the mosque when several people recorded the incident on the cellphones. Four people were handcuffed and taken to the Durban Central police station holding cells.
Shah, whose son Mohammed was also arrested, claimed metro police took the detainees’ phones and deleted the recordings.
He said the detainees were still handcuffed when he went to see them in the cells. The men were not charged and were released after an hour. Shah, who is considering legal action, said he had told Nxumalo that the manner in which the worshippers were treated was unacceptable.
He described the police action as “inhumane” and said none of the constables had name badges.
Shah claimed there was a lot of political interference to try to prevent him pursuing criminal charges.
Grey Street Mosque chairman AV Mohammed said he would appoint a team headed by trustee Yusuf Randaree to investigate the incident.
But he said worshippers needed to be warned to park properly or face being fined.
Nxumalo said city manager, S’bu Sithole, had been assigned to investigate the incident.
“Perhaps there is a problem with parking which the (mosque) leadership should take up. You need to make (worshippers) aware of the law. I will start to get the ball rolling to get additional parking, (to) see which space can be made available so it does not affect road users,” Nxumalo said.