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By Malibongwe Dayimani

Premium Journalist

WATCH: Police accused of being heavy-handed after dramatic raid on East Rand properties

Crime expert believes the level of force used by the Special Task Force was necessary but slammed them for assaulting unarmed and surrendered individuals.

The Saps’s Special Task Force is accused of being heavy handed after a CCTV camera captured members of the elite tactical unit storming an East Rand home and other properties before assaulting civilians and leaving behind a trail of destruction.

The home was one of three properties, including a Brakpan-based business, raided by the unit last week in their search for an unnamed individual in connection with what the police have said were alleged “illegal activities” at the home.   

The action-packed video begins with the unit smashing through the remote-controlled gate of the home in an Inyala armoured vehicle.

Watch: Police raid East Rand home

High calibre rifles out

About seven police officers jumped out of the vehicle and were joined by five more officers who entered the property on foot. All were wearing steel helmets and bulletproof vests, and carrying high calibre assault rifles.

The group carefully moves into the property with rifles aimed out.

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A terrified man can be seen kneeling inside the living room with his arms in the air, surrendering.

Moments later, an officer emerges before kicking the unarmed man below the belt causing him to fall face down.

Another officer emerges and ensures the civilian remains in the same position by stomping on his back.

In the clip, about four unarmed people are rounded up, pushed and kicked by the officers during the operation at three properties.

Business premises also raided

One woman could be seen being herded to an entry of another property by the rifle-wielding cops.

The unit proceeded to a business property where they could be seen in the footage rounding up two men, forcing them to lie on the ground and kicking them.

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The video of the incident went viral on X (formerly Twitter) with many speculating that the raid could be unlawful.

Some accused the cops of being heavy handed in their approach.

Approached for comment, the Saps confirmed the raid was part of a multidisciplinary intelligence-driven operation which followed a tip-off for “illegal activities” at the address.

The police said their actions were above board.

Police said they had a search warrant

Saps national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said: “J51 search warrants were obtained and approved for three identified addresses. The Saps used tactics to access the property in executing the search warrant. The primary objective was to access and secure the targets to allow the Directorate For Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) [Hawks] to conduct thorough searches.”

Asked what was the purpose of the raid and what evidence of illegal activities was uncovered by the police, Mathe said: “The operation proceeded as planned, with no shots fired or injuries reported. The multidisciplinary dominated the targets, and the DPCI was able to conduct its searches. No further comment will be provided.”

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Police can be held liable for damages

Crime expert Paul O’Sullivan told The Citizen that the police will be legally responsible for the cost of repairs to the property, as well as possible damages for the distress and assault caused to the victims during the raid.

While O’Sullivan admitted that the hard and fast approach of the special force was appropriate considering suspicions, he said the assault on the unarmed individuals was unnecessary.

“Having viewed the video in question, there can be no rational excuse for assaulting persons, whether they are suspects or not, who are lying on the ground. During such raids, and I have been involved in many when I was in the police, the adrenalin gets going and self-preservation is at the front of your mind. Assaulting the suspects is only normal in circumstances where they resist, in which case the level of assault, should be appropriate to the level of resistance and not of a punitive nature, as appears to be the case here,” said O’Sullivan.

He added that assaulting and kicking a suspect who has surrendered, with his hands held up in submission, does seem like it may be grounds for assault charges against the police officer concerned.

It’s not clear whether the victims reported the police for their actions to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Efforts to get comment from the victims of the raid fell flat at the time of going to print.

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