Cape cops face ‘torture’ probe
Cape Town - Members of the Steenberg police are being investigated for a string of damning allegations, including officers using baseball bats and hockey sticks to beat suspects – some of whom have claimed they had been stripped naked and smothered with plastic bags over their faces.
Eleven residents have accused members of SAPS at Steenberg police station of unlawful and “brutal” assault similar to that practiced during apartheid. The police have “again and again” allegedly abducted, tortured, beaten and destroyed the complainants’ property.
The Cape Argus is in possession of a list of names of all 11 complainants, represented by law firm Mathewson Gess Attorneys.
Last Thursday, the complainants – accompanied by lawyer Bruce Hendricks – filed a case of assault against the Steenberg police station.
Hendricks told the Cape Argus that they had filed another complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), and also a request to have police interdicted from unlawfully assaulting members of the public at the Western Cape High Court.
They are due to appear in court on November 20.
Police spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Andrè Traut said police were aware of the allegations made against some members of the Steenberg police station.
“Complaints against our members are deemed as serious, and we will not hesitate to investigate every allegation of misconduct or brutality,” Traut said.
One complainant, Morris – who asked that his full name not be used – told the Cape Argus that the police had raided his house many times.
“They hit everyone they find in the house… even children, and break things without producing a search or arrest warrant,” he said.
Morris said he had been “abducted” last Friday without any explanation and taken to a holding cell at Steenberg police station, where he was beaten with a hockey stick.
“Sometimes they put a plastic bag over my face until I can’t breathe, or stripped me naked and beat me until I bleed,” he said.
He said the beatings and questioning could last for up to two days. He said the police questioned him about gang-related crimes in the area such as murders and drug smuggling.
“I am not a gangster. I am a taxpayer. I deserve to be treated with dignity. By targeting us they [police] are using us as cover-ups for their corruption.”
Another complainant showed the Cape Argus three of his fingers, allegedly broken by police.
“Police are traumatising the community. They don’t want peace, they steal our stuff and give our children sleepless nights,” he said.
There is also a claim that police shot a pregnant dog which was chained to a pole and it died in its owner’s arms.
Steenberg Community Police Forum chairman Kevin Southgate said residents were encouraged to report incidents of police brutality, but none had been reported.
Southgate said: “Nothing has been brought to our attention. Instead, there have been allegations flying around in the community that gangsters are bringing cases of police brutality to try and throw the police off their investigations.”
He said that since more police had been sent to the area, there had been more arrests of gang members and drug dealers. “I have had comments from the community indicating their satisfaction with the police. They are very visible and we are seeing more arrests,” he said.
However, this is not the first time the Steenberg police have been accused of police brutality.
Two months ago, Basil Fortune, 36, laid a complaint with the Ipid against the police after he and 15-year-old Brandon Festus were allegedly attacked by a group of police officers while driving in Steenberg.
Fortune said about six policemen stopped and searched their car before punching both of them in the stomach and chest.
At the time, Ipid spokesman Moses Dlamini confirmed that Fortune’s case was the fourth incident reported against Steenberg police this year.