In sheep's clothing
||29 June 2008 07:00
Devi Sankaree Govender
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Hammanskraal lies just north of Pretoria. It's a town where life is slow and news travels fast. It's home to a large farming community and a healthy trade in livestock. And, if you're having a run-in with local law enforcement, the odd sheep can get you off the hook.
[Hidden camera] Stephan Smith (Auctioneer): 'Female or male or what?'
Policeman: 'I don't mind. Meat is meat.'
Stephan: 'Meat is meat?'
Policeman: 'Meat is meat.'
Stephan: 'Meat is meat, and a man must eat.'
That's the sheep that auctioneer Stephan Smith says was his get-out-of-jail card.
Man: 'At first, I thought, this is a strange tjo-tjo.'
Stephan: 'What is tjo-tjo?'
It's an unusual story that started a few weeks ago when Stephan and his son, Juan, were pulled over by Hammanskraal police.
Stephan: 'We had three people on the back of the bakkie. The next moment a police vehicle with four policemen raced past us and pulled us off the road. They asked for the people's ID documents.'
Stephan's Zimbabwean employees were in the country illegally, so police arrested them. Employing illegal immigrants is an offence that carries a hefty fine.
Devi Sankaree Govender (Carte Blanche presenter): 'So did you expect to get some kind of legal fine?'
Stephan: 'When we came in, he told us that he's writing us a ticket for R25 000, but said, 'you can choose, you can pay me R10 000 instead'.'
Devi: 'Ten thousand rand?'
Stephan: 'Ja. Then we told him we didn't have that kind of money.'
But, Stephan claims the cop was open to negotiation.
Stephan: 'I took R100 out and he said, 'No, put it back in your pocket. It's too little.' Juan told him that all we could offer him was a sheep.'
Stephan later called the police officer and told him the sheep was ready for collection. He also agreed to write up a receipt for the animal. So, one Saturday afternoon, while most of the country watched Springbok rugby, a Hammanskraal police officer used an official vehicle to collect his bribe.
Marco Di Polo (Door manufacturer): 'It's all financial. I say it's financial€¦ it's all about money. It has nothing to do with the clearing of illegal immigrants.'
Door manufacturer, Marco Di Polo employs dozens of staff who live on his small holding. A few weeks ago, it was the scene of a police raid.
Marco: 'It must have been five or six vehicles, 30 to 40 different officers - none of them wearing any identification whatsoever.'
Police arrested Marco along with four of his factory workers.
Marco: 'They took the four that were with me and I said, 'They're not illegal, they have passports and they have documents.' He said, 'I'm not interested. Load!' And he loaded the lot of us.'
Marco's son-in-law later took the workers' documents to the police station. But Marco claims they still had to part with R2 500 in cash before police would release anyone.
Marco: 'Then he wanted to put it in his sock. And I looked at him and I said, 'Is that the right place to put it?''
Police allegedly raid here often. In November last year this group found themselves behind bars. Three of them are in fact South Africans with valid IDs.
Devi: 'How many of you are foreigners? Just put your hands up. Foreigners? And of the four of you, how many of you have legal papers to be here? All of you have papers? So can we see your papers? Oh so you have a temporary residence permit?'
It turns out these Mozambicans have legal documents to be in the country.
Devi: 'So you've also got temporary residence for 2008?'
They say police harass them to extort money.
Man (Mozambican employee): 'They say, 'Bring money, bring money, then I leave you' They ask me'
Devi: 'How much?'
Man: 'Two hundred.'
Devi: 'Two hundred?'
Man: 'For one person, ja.'
It's a story we heard from several foreign farm hands in the area - many too scared to appear on camera. This man was arrested and allegedly held behind bars for four days before a cash bribe bought him his freedom.
Devi: 'How much did they ask you for?'
Simon (Zimbabwean employee): 'They were saying R400 and then I said 'I don't have' and then I gave them R200.'
His residency permit had expired.
Devi: 'And they let you go?'
Simon: 'Ja, they let me go.'
Devi: 'While researching the story, we spoke to many people from this community, several of whom refused to go on camera for fear of being victimised by the police. But they all essentially told us the very same story: that the Hammanskraal police were extorting money from them.'
Richard Wagner and Mariaan Nel say bribery is a way of life in these parts.
Devi: 'And this wasn't a secret here in Hammanskraal - everybody knew about it?'
Mariaan Nel (Resident): 'Well, you budgeted for it. So much diesel for the day, and a bribe.'
Devi: 'So that's life in Hammanskraal?'
Richard Wagner (Resident): 'That's life around here! It's the easiest life to pay and go on!'
Richard manufactures feed for livestock. He relies on casual labour and sometimes employs illegal immigrants.
Devi: 'If we were to speak to the police, they would easily come back and say to us, 'Well, instead of paying a fine, they want to pay a bribe.' It works both ways.'
Mariaan: 'Yes, we're breaking the law by paying a bribe, but if the police officer says to you that the fine is R25 000 per worker, and, 'We want R500' I mean there's not even a choice involved there.'
Daan Ensley says he had no choice but to pay, but for altogether different reasons.
Daan Ensley (Farmer): 'The only reason why I paid that is my daughter was with me, and I asked him if I can make a phone call, so he says, 'You can do it there, by the police station'.'
Devi: 'So because he was prepared for you to take your daughter with you to jail?'
Daan's three-year-old daughter goes everywhere with him. They were in the car together the day Daan says he gave someone a lift. They were stopped by police.
Daan: 'So he arrested the man that was€¦ that we gave a lift. So I told him, 'No that man is not working for me.' And he said, 'No, no, no, he was in your bakkie and the fine is R25 000. But if you can make a plan, you can go.''
That 'plan' involved R 1 000 in cash, which Daan says he paid to protect his little girl.
Devi: 'In all our research and interviews, one name keeps popping up.'
Daan: 'Captain Makena.'
Man (Mozambican employee): 'Makena.'
Marco: 'Captain Makena.'
Devi: 'Captain Makena heads up the crime prevention unit at Hammanskraal Police Station.'
[Hidden camera] Captain Maken (Head: crime prevention, Hammanskraal): 'Open it up.'
Captain Makena is also the officer who cashed in on a sheep from Stephan.
[Hidden camera] Stephan: 'No, it won't fit.'
We went to talk with his boss and station commander, Superintendent Nkuma.
Devi: 'It's very nice to meet you.'
He'd asked his communications officer to sit in on the interview. As it turns out, that post is also filled by Captain Makena.
Devi: 'Have allegations of bribery and corruption ever been levelled against any of your members at this police station?'
Superintendent Nkuma (Station commander: Hammanskraal): 'I've got only one case that was opened by my captain.'
The man everyone is pointing fingers at has, in fact, fingered a colleague for bribery.
Superintendent Nkuma: 'There was such a thing of a police officer being issued - given R50. So that is the case that I can remember - only one case'
Devi: 'We've spoken to several people in the last few days from Hammanskraal who've told us that policemen here have been stopping them and eliciting bribes from them specifically.'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Ja that one€¦ I cannot say it is true because I've never come across such a thing.'
Devi: 'Never heard of it?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'No.'
Devi: 'Nobody's ever phoned you and said, 'Superintendent we're very concerned. One of your members X did this'?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Ja, I remember this, there was one fool that came to me to say I must look into this people who are making road blocks because there is allegation of saying that they are receiving bribes and so on [sic].'
The man wanting to sing was Daan Ensley.
Daan: 'I said to him, 'I paid him R1 000', so he says okay he'll come back to me. Until now he never came back to me.'
Devi: 'It's been how long now?'
Daan: 'It's been four weeks now.'
Devi: 'Daan Ensley complained about Captain Makena, am I right?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Alleged yes. He put an allegation about that.'
Devi: 'And Captain Makena holds quite a senior position here. What does he do?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'He's a crime prevention head.'
Devi: 'So how do you investigate the head of crime prevention at this police station?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'It doesn't matter whether you are an officer, or you are a junior member. Investigation will go on.'
Devi: 'But you're waiting for a sworn statement from Daan Ensley, that's what you're saying?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Exactly! If there is anything which is done in writing'
Devi: 'So you're not going to react unless somebody puts something in writing?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'If you put it in writing, then you've got those powers and strength to say that you can proceed with investigation.'
Devi: 'Is this the first time you've heard such allegations being put against Captain Makena?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Ah, yes, that was for the first time.'
Devi: 'What if I told you that I have evidence - absolute evidence - that Captain Makena does take bribes?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Then if you can, you can translate that, what you are telling me in writing, then that thing can be investigated. And possible arrest can be there.'
Devi: 'Well let's ask Captain Makena, I mean he's right here. We have video evidence of you, on Saturday, going to Stephan Smith's farm, the auctioneer, and you picked up a sheep. What were you doing there and why did you pick up a sheep from him?'
Captain Makena: 'From the€¦'
Devi: 'On Saturday.'
Captain Makena: 'Yes, I remember that.'
Devi: 'So what are you doing picking up a sheep? In a police vehicle?'
Captain Makena: 'I put it in the police vehicle, but I bought it from him.'
Devi: 'You didn't buy it from him.'
Captain: 'I've got the receipt.'
It seems the Captain didn't check the detail. The invoice clearly states that the sheep came for free.
Devi: 'The video evidence is clear. No money changed hands whatsoever. You insisted on a receipt because you were transporting a sheep. You even tried to put the sheep in the boot.'
Our hidden camera also caught the captain actually admitting to taking bribes.
[Hidden camera] Stephan: 'So, what do they give you?'
Captain Makena: 'Money.'
Stephan: 'Just money?'
Captain Makena: 'Yes, yes, just small change'
Stephan: 'Oh, just small change?'
Captain Makena: 'To buy shoes'
Stephan: 'Oh so R500, R1000 is just small change for you guys?'
Captain Makena: 'No, no '
Devi: 'Based on everything€¦ the conversation we have just had now with Captain Makena, and based on the evidence that I have, please also remember, superintendent, we don't go running around accusing people of deeds until we are really, really sure. Is this not sufficient now, to launch some kind of investigation?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Ja I think it is good for those people that are complaining to come and complain in writing so that we can go on with the investigation.'
The fall back line is, as always, that complaints need to be in writing. We asked to speak with some of the illegal immigrants being held in the cells. There we met a Zimbabwean who claims he'd been behind bars for six days, although police later disputed this. In any event, Isaac Dube has a story to tell.
Isaac Dube (Illegal immigrant): 'Yes, he can hit me. He can collect two month's cheque.'
Devi: 'Who hit you?'
Devi: 'He hit you? Captain Makena hit you?'
Devi: 'When did he hit you?'
Isaac: 'On Sunday, last week.'
Devi: 'Where did he assault you? Here?'
Isaac: 'He hit me at home.'
Devi: 'And he brought you here?'
Isaac: 'Yes, at home he hit me with a big gun. Everything. Check my body.'
Devi: 'And tell me about the R200? What did he say?'
Isaac: 'He took R200 from my wallet.'
Devi: 'Let's put this in perspective, supervisor. This man doesn't know that we were talking to you about that man, am I right? Am I right?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Yes.'
Devi: 'This is a complete stranger who has no idea of the conversation you and I had inside the police station. And you heard it from him yourself, and I don't know this man. Is this not a problem?'
Superintendent Nkuma: 'Ja, I think that it is a serious one.'
Devi: 'He's specifically identifying you as having assaulted him. Did you or didn't you assault him?'
Captain Makena: 'Sometimes they resist arrest. He was only resisting arrest. We forced him into the handcuffs.'
Devi: 'Is it right that he's here for six days and is it right that at the end of the day he claims that you assaulted him?'
Captain Makena: 'No, I didn't assault this guy.'
Devi: 'You don't find it worrying that there are so many allegations now against you, and it's just getting worse and worse with every question that I ask?'
Captain Makena: 'It's because I'm always with these people; I'm always with them, always working with them.'
Devi: 'Why would this man lie? He's here behind bars! I'm going to leave now! He's now in a very difficult position. You could do the same thing. Why would he tell me this now? It's not in his best interests and not in his safety to tell me this now.'
Captain Makena: 'But I think if he was assaulted, we can take him and give him a medical'
Devi: 'Now? After six days? Now you want to give him a medical!'
Captain Makena: 'He was not assaulted.'
In November last year, another foreigner opened a case of assault against the Hammanskraal police.
Julius Fernando (Mozambican employee): 'Police came in my room, there were five guys. And then after that they say 'Sleep everybody', and then we sleep.'
Julius Fernando claims police opened teargas on him and then shot him with a rubber bullet.
Julius: 'And then after that they shoot me with a gun.'
Devi: 'So you were sleeping when this€¦ I mean you were lying down when it happened - you didn't fight with the police?'
Julius: 'Never! Never.'
Julius was allegedly jailed for four days before police allowed him medical attention. His injuries kept him in hospital for a week.
Devi: 'Just one day after our cameras started rolling on the story, there was suddenly a great deal of police activity here in Hammanskraal.'
Senior police officers arrived in Hammanskraal, hot on the heels of our cameras. They spoke to some of the same people we did.
Devi: 'Within about a week, Captain Makena had been arrested.'
Eight police reservists were also arrested on charges of theft and corruption. The man at head office authorised to talk to us is police spokesperson, Eugene Opperman.
Devi: 'Allegations were made, cases were laid, people complained officially; nothing happened. And then it takes a group of journalists to arrive in town, and then, before you know it, the man of the moment is finally arrested and behind bars.'
Superintendent Eugene Opperman (Provincial police spokesperson): 'Well it's extremely difficult for me to say that nothing has been done there because, from what we can make out, the cases that have been reported have been investigated and put before the prosecutors where necessary, for their decision.'
That is not the information we have. And then there are the widespread allegations of police brutality. There's Isaac Dube who alleges police beat him, Julius Fernando who says they shot him with a rubber bullet, and others who claim they were slapped around.
Man 1: 'He hit him, left and right.'
Man 2: 'He was beating me.'
Man 3: 'He push...'
Devi: 'The picture that we have now is a group of people that take opportunities and exploit people unnecessarily and, in the same breath, use really, really excessive force.'
Eugene: 'Well, I think that the public very often don't realise that there are police officers that also lock up other police officers. And I think we've proven over a period of time that we're quite willing to investigate against our own, and take action where necessary against them.'
Back in Hammanskraal's farming community, life is much the same. This week, the talk of the town centres around the upcoming 'boere dag' and the fact that there's something different about local law enforcement.
Mariette: 'We haven't had any road blocks in two weeks. We haven't had any of that in the last two weeks, our workers haven't had any of that in the last two weeks as far as I know, and we had the police here on Friday and they were very helpful.'
In the meantime Superintendent Opperman has confirmed that all allegations of police brutality are being investigated by the provincial office.
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.