Three police officers have been interdicted from interfering with the operations of a Pick n Pay in Soweto, following allegations that the law enforcement officers went beyond level 4 regulations in targeting the store on multiple occasions.
It is claimed the officers forced the store to close earlier than the permitted time as per the level 4 lockdown regulations.
The owner of the Pick n Pay store in Soweto approached the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg for an interdict, which was granted on Tuesday as the matter was not opposed.
The three police officers, stationed at the Kagiso police station, and the Minister of Police were cited as respondents. They each filed a notice to abide by the decision of the court.
The Pick n Pay franchise owner, Guide Mazhande, accused the police officers of interfering in the operations of the store, forcing him to close earlier. He said his ordeal started after he reported a robbery, which took place earlier this month.
“I have been threatened with arrest and, every time the police have come to the shop, they have increased in numbers, which is purposefully aimed at intimidating the applicant [the Pick n Pay store] and its staff to adhere to their orders,” Mazhande said in court papers.
“If allowed to continue, these actions will cause the applicant’s business to suffer, which will extend to the employees and the community that depends on the store for their basic food requirements.”
According to the court papers, the alleged harassment began a day after the Pick n Pay was robbed by six armed men on 4 May.
In his affidavit, Mazhande said the matter was reported to police on the same day. Police visited the store that evening and started their investigation.
The following day, the alleged harassment began. One of the police officers arrived at the store and said there was insufficient security and ordered that the shop close at 18.00pm, an hour earlier than the normal trading hours as per the current lockdown regulations, Mazhande contended.
Later that week, Mazhande was allegedly called by the same police officer, cited as Brigadier Maduna, who ordered that the store now close at 17.00pm.
On 9 May, Maduna allegedly arrived at the store just before 18.00pm and chased out all the customers and forced the manager to close the store.
This happened again on 10 May, only this time it was two other police officers, who said they were acting under the direction of a Captain Pieterse.
Mazhande then attempted to hand a lawyer’s letter to Maduna, which did not happen because he was not at the police station at the time.
“On 11 May, at approximately 12:00, a Captain Theron, accompanied by members of the SAPS, as well as the army, came to the store and ordered that the shop closes by 17:00.”
According to Mazhande, Theron would not give the order in writing and said the action would be included in the robbery docket.
“Given the contingent of armed officers that had arrived at the shop, the threats of charges being laid against me and/or my staff, as well as the general anxiety of the intimidation tactics by police, I decided to close the store at 19:00 that evening and, if members of the SAPS arrived at the store to force its closure, then I would comply.”
The court ordered that Brigadier Maduna, Captain Pieterse and Captain Theron be interdicted and restrained from unlawfully interfering in Mazhande’s business.
The court also directed that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigate the actions of the police officers.