City executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman Photo: African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town  – The City of Cape Town has launched an investigation into allegations that its law enforcement officers assaulted a homeless man, unprovoked, near the Western Cape High Court.

Rudy Oosterwyk said he had been walking down Leeuwen Street last Tuesday when he saw six men, of which two were law enforcement officers, shoving, beating and pepper-spraying a man around his fifties, before cuffing him.

Oosterwyk lodged a formal complaint to the City and with the SA Human Rights Commission.

City executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said: “The City is aware of the allegation and has also received a complaint in this regard.

“The matter is under investigation. We’ve since obtained statements from the officers involved in the incident. We’ve also secured video footage from a nearby CCTV camera.”

Oosterwyk said the man was sitting up against a pole when he was surrounded by officers and a man wearing jeans and black jacket with a radio at his waist, while the other two wore Cape Town Central City Improvement District uniforms.

“One of the security guards pulled the man up by the scruff of his neck, holding him up by his collar before shoving, beating and pinning him down. It appears that they used a cable-tie to tie his hands behind his back.

“It also looked like they were holding him down with force. I thought at the time that this, too, was unnecessary as the old man was clearly neutralised by the pepper-spray. 

"What also made me upset is that they were laughing at him. They impaired his dignity.”

Oosterwyk said he tried to intervene by asking them to stop but no one listened, as the man was pepper-sprayed about three times and was screaming in agony.

During the scuffle he had used his phone to record the incident, but declined to circulate the video out of respect and to protect the man. Only a screengrab was shared.

“They merely glanced at me and continued. When I started filming the attack, one of the men came to me and said I shouldn’t take pictures without asking questions about the events. 

"I didn’t need to ask questions to see that an elderly defenceless man was being brutally attacked for being homeless. I don’t care what happened before that. I’m more concerned with what happened in the seven minutes I witnessed.

“I walked to my car and drove past them. The old man was still lying on the ground and appeared not to be moving, and I was concerned about his state. 

"As I was driving past, a City of Cape Town vehicle parked on the corner where the incident took place. It appeared that this vehicle, a bakkie, was going to be used to transport the old man. 

"It was clear that none of the security officials established the degree of injury to the old man, and if he was, indeed, in need of urgent medical attention,” said Oosterwyk.

Cape Times