Resident claims police ’overlooked receipts’ during search for stolen goods
Share this article:
Gauteng: A raid to recover goods stolen during the rampant looting that characterised the recent civil unrest in parts of Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal has left a 41-year-old man feeling robbed after the police allegedly confiscated things he had proof that he bought.
Mkhambi Mthimkhulu, a resident of Boiketlong informal settlement in Sebokeng, had to rush home from work after receiving a call from his neighbours that police had broken into his house during a raid.
This was after members of the SA Police Service and the SA National Defence Force were deployed in the informal settlement as part of the so-called “show me your receipt” campaign.
Mthimkhulu's gate and burglar bars were broken, and the wardrobes and cupboards ransacked in the early morning operation on Thursday.
“When I got here, I found that they had taken a four-plate gas stove and seats. The couches were also taken. I told them I had proof that I bought the items, but they refused to listen. The sad part is that I was still paying for the stove,” he said.
The father of two said his groceries were also taken.
“I have used a smart shopper card for points and I will prove that. I will ask Pick n Pay to check in their system and tell how much the grocery is valued at. To be honest, I didn’t take anything during the looting at the mall,” said Mthimkhulu.
“This is very painful. Imagine, I was at work today and I got a call that the police had entered my home without anyone’s permission. This is sad because I have to buy food again, and I don't have money.”
The beds were also turned upside down in the kitchen.
“Why didn’t they ask for my numbers from the neighbours so that I could come? I took a metered taxi (to get home in time) because I bought everything in the house. They left these beds after I showed them receipts. And I was told that the other things were already on the truck and that I must go claim them at the police station on Monday,” he said.
“They even broke the wardrobes and took clothes belonging to my children, and I have the receipts for the clothes,” said Mthimkhulu, who also produced the receipts.
Another resident, James Sehola, said the police entered and searched his brother’s home, where a wheelbarrow and other items were recovered while he was at work.
“It was very unfair of them to enter while the owner was not there. We were told to open the door or else they would break it down. Fortunately, the other one was open and they managed to go through it and take whatever they wanted to take. This is sad; I think they should have waited for him to come back.”
Clothing, liquor, audio systems and hardware materials were seized from various shacks during the raid. Police trucks moved in and out of the area as they recovered what they could.
Meanwhile, Lerato Mokgothu said the police took her groceries along with the looted items.
“I was still in bed when they entered. They didn’t knock, but kicked open the door. Imagine, I slept naked and they went straight to the bedroom where I was sleeping. They demanded the looted stuff and searched, even under the beds. They took everything, even in the cupboards. They took food and clothes that I bought a long time ago. This was not fair because I didn't come with a receipt after shopping,” she said.
Asked why she didn’t return the looted goods after the government called on those who looted to return them or be raided, she said: “I never thought of that because they (looted items) were dirty and I had to clean them up. So I thought they wouldn't see them,” she said.
Asked if it was allowed for the police to break into homes if the owners were not there, Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson Lirandzu Themba directed enquiries to the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS). She said the questions would be answered by the Acting Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshaveni. But GCIS spokesperson Phumla Williams did not respond or acknowledge receipt of the questions.
However, legal expert Nthabiseng Dubazana said the owners' rights to privacy and their property had been violated by the police.
“Currently there is no regulation or promulgation that has been announced to allow the SAPS to conduct such raids. No warrant of arrest has been granted to arrest anyone. As a matter of fact, those owners have a legal leg to stand on for suing the state if it can be proven, of course, that members of the SAPS were indeed the ones that committed these acts. There are criminal charges that can be laid against individual SAPS officers for crimes such as trespassing, housebreaking and theft,” she said.
Dubazana added that the residents can hold the state accountable by lodging civil suits against the state.
“They can also lay criminal charges, as stated above. Those who are currently detained may have grounds for further civil suits for unlawful arrest or detention.”
Another legal expert, Paul Hoffman, said the police were allowed to break in, but only if there was a reasonable suspicion of the commission of a serious crime.
“Those who found their homes broken into can hold the government to account only if they are innocent victims of overzealous policing. A complaint to IPID, supported by reasonable quotes for the cost of repairs, should do it,” said Hoffman.
The Sunday Independent