Police officers beat up Somali refugees in Cape Town
By Hassan Isilow
CAPETOWN-Four white Police officers, who were chasing drug dealers in Belleville, on New Year’s Eve, have been accused of turning their anger on innocent Somali refugees living in Backpackers, after failing to find the drug dealers.
It’s alleged when police failed to catch the drug dealers, they instead turned their rage on residents living in a Somali owned Backpackers in Belleville beating them and exhorting money. A 24 year old Somali refugee, Yusuf Ibrahim Hassan, had his face
badly bruised and two ribs nearly broken after the police beat him up. ‘‘I was asleep when the police men entered our Backpackers but was only woken up by kicks. I think I was beaten simply because I am not South African,” Yusuf told this reporter while obtaining treatment at the Belleville Community health center on December 31. He said he felt a lot of pain on his forehead and ribs as a result of the assault.
Ali Mahadi Mohammed, the proprietor of the Backpackers said his facility does not house drug dealers. “I’m surprised why the police came to my Lodging business and assaulted my customers, yet no one sell drugs here” he wondered. Asked if he could identify the alleged Police officers, Ali Mahadi said he only read the name of one officer, but did not want to divulge his name to the media as he prefers to take legal action against the four cops. “After consulting with my lawyers and higher authorities in the Police, I will provide you with a CCTV video tape recorded by the security camera on my premises” the upset Mahadi told Africa witness.
While another Somali resident in Belleville said the Police have made it a habit to invade Somali businesses and exhort money.
“If you do not pay them money they will frame up charges and take you to the station. So they are now making money out of this weak community” said the resident who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity fearing for his life.
When contacted for comment the Belleville Police said they were not aware of the matter. “No one has opened here a case of assault by police officers, but if they do we shall contact you” an assistant to the station commander told Africa Witness in a telephone interview. Africa Witness still follows up this matter, since it is not the first time that South African Police officers have been implicated in cases of brutality.
The issue of police brutality has been in the spotlight in South Africa particularly following the screening of a video in November 2000 on the TV programme Special Assignment depicting members of the North East Rand Dog Unit setting their dogs on, assaulting and racially abusing three alleged illegal immigrants from Mozambique .
More recently a newspaper report quoted Mary Rayner, an Amnesty International Researcher, as saying that “there are at least 20 to 30 severe cases of torture a year that are reported” in South Africa “but there are many more incidents than that are not reported”. As recently as September, she said, we received a report that the Brixton Murder and Robbery Squad – which has been involved in systematic torture for years – continues to act with impunity.