'Rogue cops' terrorising Tshwane residents inspires community to take action
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Johannesburg - Paul has had his fair share of late night police stops and metro police officers hustling him for bribes.
But Thursday morning was different on De Villebois Mareuil street in Moreleta Park, Pretoria. It all changed, he said, when he recognised one of the Tshwane metro police officers from a previous shake down.
Moments later he was fearing for his life.
The police officer, he said, took three steps back, drew his firearm and pointed it directly at him.
“What am I gonna do? I'm one person and they have a firearm. So I got out of the car, and this other guy got into my car and started searching,” said Paul, who didn’t want his real name used.
In the central console of the car, Paul said, was R10 000 from the restaurant he worked at.
He later discovered the cash was gone.
Paul is not the only such victim. There have been many recent allegations of Tshwane metro police pulling motorists over in the East of Pretoria, soliciting bribes and intimidating people.
It is such a big problem that not long after concerned resident Andre Bouwer started up the Nellmapius Action Group on WhatsApp to highlight the problem, he had to start up other groups to accommodate the expanding number of members.
He now believes that there are about 700 members. Nellmapius is considered one of the hotspots where metro police members target motorists late at night.
“It's almost like Covid all of us know, somebody that has had an incident,” said Bouwer.
Motorists driving alone at night are often the victims. One ploy, said Bouwer, is that they hold on to the motorist’s driver’s licence and tell them to go to an ATM, withdraw money and return. Sometimes they demand as much as R5 000.
“You can tell people don't pay bribes, but if you are a woman alone all you want to do is get out of a situation where you feel threatened,” added Bouwer.
There has been media reports of doctors being stopped and harassed while rushing to the hospital.
Paul had left the restaurant where he worked late on Wednesday evening. He was driving when he saw the metro police vehicle ahead of him.
“I could see that they were braking, then they did a U-turn, and I knew things were going to get real.”
After they pulled Paul over, he said, they first accused him of drinking. He said he hadn’t had a single drink of alcohol. They insisted on giving him a breathalyser test on a machine he had never seen before.
Then the police officer, Paul said, refused to show him the results of the test. The officers then accused him of breaking curfew, and he said he was able to show them permits.
“So he says you're not supposed to be on the roads and I looked at him I'm like ’so what do you want?’ Then he pulled out his cuffs and said, ’I want you’.”
After the officer had searched Paul’s car and allegedly taken the R10 000, he said they offered to escort him home, just in case there were other metro police officers on the road that might stop him.
Paul said that he had opened a case of armed robbery and intimidation with the SAPS. As of last night, he said he was awaiting confirmation via SMS.
He had the registration of the vehicle, which the Saturday Star passed onto the Tshwane metro police’s (TMPD) spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba.
“At this stage we cannot confirm or deny whether that registration of the said vehicle provided belongs to TMPD or not and we can't say those are members of TMPD. However, we will investigate the matter and on the later stage we will announce to the public of our findings,” he said.
Bouwer said that they had raised the issue with the City before on numerous occasions.
“The frustration with the executive management is that every time we complain about something they say we need statements and I accept that argument from a legal perspective. But there is sufficient indication from your community that there's a serious problem.”
Nearly every morning Bouwer wakes up to the news of new members having become the latest alleged victims of rogue police operating on the roads late at night.
“It angers me. We shouldn't be living in a society where you fear the people that are supposed to be protecting you.”