June 12, 2009

Durban Police: Abuse of Power- A Slow Sunday in the Cells


It was going to be a great day – my old friends Peter and Stevie Godson were here from East London and we were picking up Ros Sarkin and going down to the Beachfront to the Amphimarket Flea Market, which Ros started together with Margaret Winter about 26 years ago.

Section 21 Company (non profit)

The Amphimarket is a Section 21 company that has an agreement with the local municipality for the use of that space every Sunday. Stallholders pay a minimum amount and many are regulars. Some of the original stallholders are still there after 26 years.

Over the years, I’ve become involved in the Market via Ros and know many of the stallholders – for some the Sunday stalls are their only source of income; others have put kinds through university with the proceeds of the stalls.

I guess I was also smiling and looking at it through new eyes because I’ve just written a feature for African Leader Magazine on the boom of small business in KwaZulu Natal and I’ve seen the stats – these traders are poised on the brink of moving from the informal section into the smme sector which makes up over 50 percent of South Africa’s employed population.

Di Greenwood in the Middle of A Swam of Traders and Police

I see a commotion and go over to look and see Di Greenwood, the market manager in the middle of a swarm of traders and a blue cloud of police breaking down their stalls and shouting and pushing people around.

I tried to find out what was going on. I asked the guy who seemed to be in change what was going on and he said he didn't have to tell me, so I asked him who he is because he didn't have a name badge on his jacket (which I know they have to have) and he said he didn't have to tell me that either. So, I got my camera out of my bag and took a photo of him so that we could identify who the guy was who was in change if we wanted to lay a complaint. Which I was sure Di would have to do on behalf of the Market.

(I now want to find out why they decided to raid the Amphimarket -a section 21 company that has all that area on lease from the municipality -the cops are now lying and keep changing their stories, saying that they didn't have access and then saying it was a drug raid – they also allege that three policemen were hurt in this “riot”)

Policeman Grabbed my Camera

Anyway this guy I photographed grabbed my camera which I wouldn’t let go and told me I wasn’t allowed to take a picture of him. I told him he was nuts – of course I can take a picture of him and as he didn’t want to identify himself how the hell else would we know who he is.

He asked me for my card. I told him I had many cards but he wanted a press card. So I told him I don’t work for a newspaper I don’t have a press card but he can phone the mayor or the city manager- they know me well, I’ve worked for them for a long time.

He didn’t hear me and wouldn’t leave my camera.

I was Put in Handcuffs

Then he called someone and put handcuffs on me prised the camera out of my hands and put me in the back of a police van.

My friend Peter asked him what I was being charged with and he said for not identifying myself.

I was eventually charged with Public Violence, fingerprinted, and put in a cell.

About eight hours later the attorney walked in and got us off.

Captain Logan Govender Charged us with Public Violence

It took Captain Logan Govender ages to decide what to charge me, the poor American, and the other young trader with because he really had no charge, so he chose the one thing that the police couldn't release us on "public violence.”

They had to get a prosecutor there on a Sunday night. The father and son - the Khans who have been trading there for 17 years on that same spot and have never ever had any trouble with the police got R1000 bail each and have to appear in court on Tuesday for assault- they were trying to protect their livelihood - this is their sole income.

There is obviously no crime in South Africa - I spent from just after 11 – 8 in the evening in the main police station - besides us they brought in a few kids who were selling dagga but I saw so many cops doing nothing, filling in papers, hanging around. And most of them seemed to delight in shouting orders at us – wait there, keep quite, no you can’t do that. They wouldn’t allow me any reading matter.

Emotional Abuse and Waste of Time (and money)

Ros brought me water and a coke while they were charging us. I kept the water and gave the coke to the guys – they shouted at me about me having limited rights and they were being kind by allowing me to have the water! (Di told me later the coke and water came from the guy who sells brass goods)

The amount of time and papers processed to "arrest" us and get a prosecutor in on a Sunday night because I took a picture of a cop who wouldn't identify himself is beyond absurd. (I have the picture on my camera) the American lost his glasses when they tackled him and they removed him memory card and roughed him up. He is a PhD student from University of Virgina and his friend who was with him is from Yale. - the girl friend, mother in he US Congress, so news has even spread that far - he was just taking pics at the market and took a few pictures of the scuffle when he was assaulted and arrested.

Naively I believed that after liberation, the one thing that would improve is our poling, but sadly, the culture of brutality has either been passed down or is re-blooming.

The police are supposed to protect us?

May the Good Lord protect u from this lot.

I hope that we can get something done before 2010. The humiliating way they treated this young man who chose to do a Phd on a part of our history and who loves this country is too terrible. And the way they treat their own fellow citizens, is a disgrace.

1 comment:

niall mcnulty said...

hey karen.

about time you got arrested!

just kidding, this is shocking. I can't believe the cops can arrest you just for taking a photograph.

are you okay? It must have been a traumatic experience ...