Farm strikes: Claims of police brutalityComment on this story
Western Cape - More than 22 complaints of police brutality during the farmworkers’ strike have been lodged at the De Doorns police station.
On Wednesday, the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) accompanied families and individuals to the police station to lodge more complaints.
Three people have died, many have been injured and scores arrested in the strikes which began in late November and have spread to several Boland towns. Property has also been damaged.
“I’ve got complaints from groups and there are also about 22 complaints from individuals of how police are treating people,” SAHRC commissioner Melanie Dugmore said at De Doorns police station on Wednesday afternoon.
She said the commission would visit Robertson on Thursday.
The SAHRC was called out to visit the Stofland informal settlement near De Doorns where during house visits Dugmore heard how people had been shot in their homes. On Monday, a shopkeeper was shot in the head and later died. The victims included a 10-year-old girl who was shot in the eye as she stood in her home’s doorway on Monday morning.
Community leaders in Stofland have compiled a list of people injured during police operations in the settlement, including several people shot in the back.
“We are very pleased the SAHRC has come to see what has happened here. There has been so much police brutality. They are acting like mad dogs in a community they are supposed to protect. We want all the charges to be fully investigated and action taken,” said community activist Bettie Fortuin.
Fortuin was one of several leaders who escorted the media and Dugmore through the settlement which had become a no-go area for journalists after at least two attacks on reporters last week.
After she had interviewed victims and their families, Dugmore accompanied families to the De Doorns police station where she helped them lodge formal complaints.
Stofland resident and brother of 25-year-old Letsekang Tlokoane said his brother had been found critically wounded about 500m from the spaza shop where he had worked.
“It was about 5am and police were going around in the location, going door to door. They kicked down doors and assaulted people. Rubber bullets were also fired,” said Atang Tlokoane. Tlokoane had been among a group of men who had fled into some unfinished houses.
Dugmore and her aides werelater shown the bloodstained floor of an unfinished house where police had allegedly cornered Letsekang after he and other men tried to get away from police who had followed them in Nyalas.
Mokhachane Setlolela, a security guard at the building site, explained how two officers had confronted Letsekang in the house and how his limp body had later been dropped in a trench.
“I did not see what was happening in the house, but when the police came out they sprayed something. They then took him and dropped him there,” he said pointing to a trench 50m away.
Tlokoane was later rushed to hospital by residents.
Alice Moya, whose son owned the spaza shop, said: “He was like a son to me. He lived with us. He was not a trouble maker.”
Rapelang Moteoli, a father of two, said he had been shot at point-blank range while he was lying in bed on Thursday.
“I heard shots being fired outside the house. Suddenly the door was kicked down and two policemen stood in front of me. Without saying or asking anything they shot me. I was wounded in the stomach,” he said.
Neighbours had rushed him to hospital where he had an operation. He was discharged on Monday.
Earlier the father of 10-year-old Rifiloe Mosala explained how police had chased and fired shots at a group of men on Monday about 6am.The little girl had been standing in the doorway when a rubber bullet hit her in the eye.
“We took her to the clinic but it was closed. At the police station the officer refused to open a case,” he said.
Police spokesman FC van Wyk said: “People who have been injured are advised to go to their nearest police station and lodge official charges.”
*A farmworker on the Twaalfde Fontein Estate in Villiersdorp was knocked over by a bakkie on Wednesday, allegedly by private security guards. Fellow workers allege Reginald Williams, the foreman, was targeted by the security men.
A spokesman for the farm, Marius van Merwe, denied all allegations.
* In De Doorns, Wolseley, Robertson and Rawsonville the situation was calm on Wednesday.