Three professional people, including a doctor, were detained at the Waterfront and falsely accused of a string of robberies at the mall. Photo: Independent Newspapers

Three professional people, including a doctor, were detained at the V&A Waterfront on Friday night and falsely accused of a string of robberies at the mall.

Dr Mpopi Lenake, her husband Rorisang Ntai and a friend who holds a senior post in the provincial government and asked not to be named, were held for just under an hour as Waterfront security guards accused them of committing robberies last weekend.

Lenake said: “We were just leaving the Waterfront after having dinner when we were approached by a group of security guards who told us we needed to go with them. We were very confused about what was going on.”

The guards took the group to a back room where seven guards accused them of committing last week’s crimes, while trying to track down the waiter who saw the actual criminals. Security guards told the three that last week “three short, black people” stole from the mall. None of the three is particularly short, and the provincial employee is Indian.

When the waiter from a well-known seafront restaurant arrived, he immediately said Lenake and her group were not the people he had seen. Later that night, a manager from the restaurant called Lenake to apologise for the confusion.

“It was a serious case of mistaken identity that was handled very badly. You can’t assume that three black people in the mall are the same three that stole,” Lenake said.

Her friend said: “It is the manner in which it was dealt with that I’m not happy with. The process lacked dignity and wasn’t in line with the constitution. They (the guards) had a right to question us, but they had no right to detain us.”

The “racist ordeal” enraged her, and she found it ironic that it happened in the week South Africa celebrated its 17th year of democracy.

Security officials said they could not talk about the incident and a human resources representative for the V&A Waterfront could not be reached for comment. - Weekend Argus