Police assaulted us, refugees claim
By Mpume Madlala
“Where is our protection? Police have resorted to beating us for nothing.”
This was the lament of some refugees at Albert Park after several of them were allegedly assaulted by police officers at the weekend.
Frederic Eca Bakeni, one of those assaulted, said: “I was at my street hair salon in Warwick Triangle. A group of us were busy with customers when we suddenly saw a woman running past the salon and a casually dressed man chasing after her.
|‘He continued to chase the woman and when he caught up with her, he beat her’|
“The man had a black bag with him, which he dumped inside my salon. He continued to chase the woman and when he caught up with her, he beat her.”
Eca Bakeni decided to place the bag outside the salon.
“We did not know what was in the bag and that is why I moved it, but the man came back and slapped me across the face. I asked him what I had done and that is when he told me I had a big mouth and pulled out his gun on me,” he said.
Eca Bakeni said his brother tried to help him, but the man called the police. “My brother was beaten and then arrested. I did not know where they took him and we looked everywhere for him, but we could not find him.
“He returned to the camp on Monday but he is unable to speak.
|‘… he told me I had a big mouth and pulled out his gun on me’|
“On Sunday, the same man came back with other police officers and this time he was dressed in police uniform and that was the only time we realised that he worked for the South African Police Service.”
Eca Bakeni said on Sunday he and two other people were beaten at their salon before being taken in a police car to a desolate spot under the bridge on Victoria Embankment where the assault continued.
“They told the other two guys to run away and then sprayed teargas in a plastic bag and placed it over my head. They repeatedly kicked me in the stomach before leaving me there in pain.”
Bibimba Mufaume, leader of the Congolese refugees, said it had been bad enough when they were assaulted by community members, but it was now worse because the police were beating them. “We have now completely lost hope. We no longer have any protection.”
Police spokesperson Superintendent Muzi Mngomezulu said because it was hard to follow up on cases without case numbers, the victims should report these incidents to the police.
“If they do not get any help from the Broad Street Police Station, which is closest to them, then they should report their cases to the station commissioner at Durban Central Police Station,” he said.