Internal investigation launched into harassment of dog bed vendor. Picture: Screen grab of video
Internal investigation launched into harassment of dog bed vendor. Picture: Screen grab of video

South Africans rally in support of dog bed vendor as metro police probe alleged harassment by officers

By Karen Singh Time of article published Jun 26, 2021

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Durban - Videos of Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers allegedly harassing and attempting to solicit a bribe from a woman selling dog beds, which was shared on social media this week, sparked widespread outrage across the country.

The incident, however, has taken a positive turn as many South Africans have rallied together to assist the dog bed vendor, known as Lebo.

Tony Oliviera De Sousa, 27, an IT asset disposal consultant, who said he stopped his vehicle to record the “injustice” as officers loaded the vendors handmade dog and cat baskets into their vehicle is one of the many who have stepped in to assist Lebo.

In a Red Corner Show interview on Thursday night, De Sousa said he had seen Lebo at the same spot for about two years.

“I often see Lebo there and she’s one of those very nice ladies … who sits at the side of the road and lets her products speak for themselves,” he said.

He said the day of the incident the incident was the first time he had spoken to her.

“Lebo is a single mother, she’s got two children and her sister passed away quite recently so she is responsible for looking after six children at the moment,” said De Sousa.

De Sousa said while speaking to Lebo, she informed him that no one had approached her with regard to a vending licence but that she had tried to apply for own and failed to get it.

He said he would be assisting Lebo to get her licence and would accompany her to go and collect her beds from the metro police on Friday.

“As soon as we’ve got the beds we are actually going to get her a vending licence,” said De Sousa.

He added that they planned to challenge the fine Lebo received for selling her goods without a licence.

If the fine is not waived, he said he would pay the fine in order to get the dog beds back.

De Sousa added that an NGO had also offered Lebo a stall at a market where she will be able to store her products and have access to facilities.

De Sousa said the response from South Africans was incredible and shows that despite divisions in the country, we can stand in unity to support one person.

“I want to say big ups to South Africa because the show of support that has actually come through to her has been truly amazing. She is sitting with about 100 orders for dog beds which is more than she sold in a year. She’s got people paying her already to get these dog beds. She has had a lot of anonymous donors sending her e-wallets, money vouchers and food vouchers,” he said.

In a statement on Monday, JMPD said the matter had been sent to the JMPD Internal Affairs Unit and a preliminary investigation has been initiated.

Over 500 people commented on the statement which was posted on the JMPD Facebook page.

Lehlohonolo Mtshali believes that street marshals should be employed to monitor and enforce by-laws to end abuse witnessed on a daily basis and to restore trust in the police.

“Road shows will assist in teaching our street vendors by-laws because most of these people are not educated, they need to be empowered,” she said.

Bongani Ngubeni said he was not disputing the by-laws but called on the officers to “have a heart” and issue a warning.

“We are living in difficult times whereby Covid-19 has destroyed so many homes, why be heartless?” he said.

THE MERCURY

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