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Pretoria - A five-hour ordeal in the back of a Joburg metro police department (JMPD) van has left a Waterkloof man traumatised and fearful of the men in uniform.
What was supposed to be a normal afternoon drive home from work along the N1 soon turned into something from a Carte Blanche documentary, Roberto Strydom said, with his hand covering the right side of his bruised face.
The 24-year-old said he was stopped by three members of the JMPD on the Olifantsfontein off-ramp, thinking it was a routine check.
As he was not speeding, he gladly stopped.
“The two white men asked me for my driving licence while a third black male checked my vehicle. Something about them put me off, though. Their uniform and even vehicle just didn’t look too legit, but I still co-operated with them. They said they could smell alcohol on my breath, but I said that was impossible because it was half-four in the afternoon and I had just left work.”
Strydom said he was forcefully pulled from his vehicle, pushed against his car, and asked for money or he risked being taken to jail.
“I told them they could take me to jail and do the Breathalyser test, and that would prove I hadn’t drunk, but they started getting agitated with me. That’s when they cuffed me and dragged me to their bakkie, and threw me in the back of the vehicle.”
Strydom’s initial thought was that he was being taken to a police station, as his alleged kidnappers did not read out his rights or say much, but as darkness fell Strydom realised he was in trouble.
“I started feeling claustrophobic. I could see out of the van, I was banging on the front of the van to get the attention of the officers to find out what was going on.
“I felt so afraid as the hours went by and I lost track of time. I had no idea what they were going to do with me, considering all these stories you read about.”
Strydom said he became completely disoriented.
“The next thing I remember is that they stopped and opened the door, they aimed a bright light into my face and grabbed me out. All of a sudden I felt a heavy blow to my face. One guy said again that if I paid them, they would let me go.
Strydom said he refused and was again hit with something.
“The next thing I remember was waking up in the back seat of my car, tied to the door with a cable tie.”
It took him a while before he managed to put on the hazard lights of his car. He also managed to grab his cellphone, which was vibrating at the time with an incoming call from his brother.
“I spoke to my brother and he kept asking where I was, but I could not see anything as I was dazed. I forced myself to focus and could see the name of a tile company and gave it to him.”
A patrolling security van came to his rescue.
“The guy stopped and then helped cut me loose, and then told me where I was. I called my brother back and told him I was on Old Johannesburg Road. Soon after that paramedics, police and my family arrived.”
This was not, however, the first ordeal Strydom had experienced. In 2010, he was assaulted and tortured in the back seat of his vehicle by hijackers for more than eight hours. He escaped after another car drove into them and the hijackers fled.
“It took me a long while and a lot of therapy sessions to get past that, and now this happens, worst of all by men in uniform. You hear about this kind of stuff all the time, but it is still so surreal when it happens to you,” he said.
Strydom said a part of him still doubted that the officers were genuine JMPD members.
JMPD spokesman Wayne Minnaar said an internal investigation was under way.