Bruising ordeal at hands of brutal cops
all credits: IOL News
originally published: 11th February 2011
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
The life of a Botha’s Hill man has been turned upside down since he was severely assaulted – allegedly at the hands of police – in his home. And when Joseph Shange, 39, tried to return a stun grenade mistakenly left by the officers in his kitchen, he was arrested for being in possession of police property.
After spending nine days in police holding cells and three postponements of his case, the charges were dropped last week. Shange, a gardener and handyman, said the October 29 attack had limited the number of jobs he could take on and had had a detrimental effect on his income.
At about 2am, police stormed his home, which he shares with his two children and three siblings, demanding he produce the guns they thought he was hiding.
“They turned my house upside down, searching for the firearms, before they handcuffed me and started beating me. I told them I did not know what they were looking for and no one at home owned a firearm. “But they continued; I was throttled and I sustained a broken rib,” he said.
“I pleaded with them that they should rather just arrest me, but they said they were not there to arrest but to kill me. The police continued beating me and I had done nothing wrong; I was innocent,” he said.
Still in handcuffs, police allegedly took him to a hill where they had parked their cars. He was beaten again and the handcuffs were removed before the officers left.
“I couldn’t lift a finger and I vomited blood until I fainted. I woke up the next morning and crawled to the closest neighbour…. The neighbour accompanied me back to my home where I found a bomb on top of my fridge,” said Shange.
The “bomb” was a stun grenade that one of the officers had mistakenly left at the home. On his brother’s insistence, Shange took the grenade to the Hillcrest police station, but they refused to accept it and asked him to take it to the Pinetown police.
After getting time off from one of his employers, Tony van der Merwe, he visited a doctor in Pinetown.
“As I was approaching (the surgery), a car stopped in front of me and four police (officers) came out. They asked me to put my hands in the air and one policeman started searching my bag. “They found the bomb and said they had been looking for it. I tried to explain how I found it, but I was arrested for having an explosive in my possession,” he said. Shange was taken to the Pinetown police station and placed in the holding cells.
“I stayed there for nine days because the court case was postponed three times. At the fourth court appearance, I was granted bail of R1000. “When I went back to court on February 2, I was informed that the charge had been withdrawn,” he said.
Van der Merwe – who has employed Shange as a gardener for about four years – said he was angered by the attack and was calling for the perpetrators to be brought to book.
“I’m going to seek legal advice and pursue a case against the national minister of police (Nathi Mthethwa). He must take responsibility for his officers. “This whole thing was uncalled for and now this poor guy must suffer with his injuries and endure the court cases. He’s been a nervous wreck ever since. I wouldn’t do the things they did to him to a dog or my worst enemy.”
Area councillor Rick Crouch, who was contacted by Van der Merwe and has been assisting Shange with the case since November 2010, said he was glad the justice system had eventually worked for Shange.
After a battle with the former Hillcrest station commissioner, a Colonel Zondi, Crouch praised Zondi’s successor, Colonel Kweyama, for his efficiency. Kweyama submitted a letter to the senior prosecutor in Pinetown, which resulted in the charges being withdrawn.
“We need more police officers like Colonel Kweyama. In this case, the justice system worked for Mr Shange, but who knows what would have happened if he did not have people fighting for him,” said Crouch. “And then there is still the case of the beating he took at the hands of the police.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Vincent Mdunge confirmed that a case of assault had been registered at the Hillcrest police station.
“There is no clear indication of who the people (who assaulted Shange) are. The complainant alleges that 20 policemen and a policewoman demanded to search his house before severely assaulting him. “It is still under investigation and the identity of the assailants needs to be determined and if they are, indeed, police officers.”