Woman alleges Grassy Park police involved in cigarette corruption

Vanessa Adriaanse, a 46-year-old woman from Grassy Park, Cape Town, is weighing her options after she was allegedly manhandled and, to her mind, wrongfully arrested by police inside her home last Saturday afternoon.

She also claims that while being booked at the police station, she witnessed police officers talking about dividing illicit cigarettes up among themselves that they had confiscated earlier in the day.

At about 3pm on Saturday afternoon Adriaanse left home to buy airtime at a small shop located just down the road from her house on Johnson Street, Grassy Park. She came upon a number of police officers who were in the process of searching the shop and arresting two shopkeepers for illegal cigarette sales. The officers told her to come back later. She then said to them: “Why don’t you arrest some real criminals for once?”

The comment was apparently rooted in Adriaanse’s frustration at falling victim to many burglaries and petty thefts at her house in recent years. These crimes have apparently gone unsolved by police.

The police became angry and confronted Adriaanse. She decided to let it go and went back inside her house. She left the front door and gate open. Then, four police officers, two of whom were not wearing masks, walked inside her house and wanted to arrest her for “interfering in police business”. The police allegedly also threatened to shoot Adriaanse’s dog.

Adriaanse was angry and scolded the police when they tried to handcuff her. She says they grabbed her and hustled her towards a police van.

At Grassy Park police station, she claims, the officers threatened her with a R5,000 fine and detention.

While at the station, she says, a police officer walked into the room with one full carton and six loose boxes of cigarettes. He put the cigarettes on a table and said to his colleagues that they would divide them up later. Adriaanse took this to mean the police intended to keep the cigarettes for themselves instead of booking them in as evidence. She recognised the cigarettes as the same ones that had been confiscated from the shop, she says.

She was then taken to a “small” holding cell with four other women already inside and locked up.

Meanwhile, Adriaanse’s employer was at the front of the police station waiting for news and trying to secure Adriaanse’s release. The police released Adriaanse, apparently without charge, about three hours later.

On Sunday, Adriaanse, with the help of her employer, phoned the hotline for the Western Cape office of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to report a case of potential police corruption at the Grassy Park station, related to the officers alleged intention to divide up the cigarettes. IPID’s investigator manning the line asked that she open a case at a police station, which would then be referred to IPID for investigation, Adriaanse said.

There have been reports of people being scared of accessing police stations during the lockdown, in case they are arrested for breaking regulations. But Adriaanse said that she was willing to report the case to “make sure that they are held accountable” because “that police station has been a problem for a while”.

We sent a request for comment to the Western Cape police media office, describing Adriaanse’s allegations. Police spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said “the matter and the circumstances of this incident are under investigation by the police management”.

Adriaanse said she had not yet ruled out the possibility of opening a civil case of wrongful arrest against the police.

There have been many reports of heavy-handedness arising from how police are enforcing the lockdown. Last week, IPID reported to Parliament that there has been a spike in complaints against the police during lockdown, when compared with the same period last year.

Knoetze is the editor of Viewfinder.

Republished from GroundUp

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