A beating, allegedly at the hands of a Nemato police officer, left 20-year-old Ncumisa Mpalala with eye injuries and bruises on her face.
Mpalala, whose left eye was left swollen as a result of the assault, said the police officer struck her in an attempt to force to admit to have stolen a cellphone.
Revealing how it all started, she said: “On Saturday March 13, there is a guy who stole Sinazo’s cellphone and when he was asked about it he lied, saying he was sent by me. I called the police to come and intervene because I knew that I did not steal any cell phone.”
Mpalala said the police took her and the man accusing her of stealing the cellphone to the Nemato Police Station for questioning.
“When I was questioned about the cellphone I maintained that I did not steal a cellphone. After that this policeman started smacking me on my face. He was also pulling my hair. There were three other police officers watching while I was beaten, but they were not beating me nor saying anything,” she said.
In an attempt to save herself, Mpala said: “I asked them to take my phone to replace the stolen cellphone even though I knew that I did not steal any cellphone. They refused to take it, saying I must bring back Sinazo’s cellphone. When this guy who accused me of stealing a cellphone realised that my eye was swollen he told them [the police] that he was lying, that I did not steal a cell phone.”
Although the damage was already done, the retraction by her accuser seems to have spared Mpalala from further assault.
“After that he stopped me beating me. They asked him why he hates me so much. I went outside to the tap to wash my face because I was feeling dizzy. One policewoman gave me ice to place on my swollen eye,” she said.
Mpalala further revealed that on Sunday she was rushed to hospital following the incident.
Asked for comment, police spokesperson Mali Govender said: “A case of assault has been opened against the member, and is being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. At a local level a disciplinary investigation has been opened.”
The incident also raised the ire of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), which led a community protest to Nemato Police Station on Monday to handover a memorandum of understanding.
Sanco’s memorandum indicated: “We demand that [policeman’s name withheld] be suspended with immediate effect for attacking an innocent young lady. We demand 24 hour visible police patrols in the township with no excuse of unavailability of police vans.”