We report on true stories of abuse by the South African Police “Service”. Unedited. Published on request and with permission. 

If you would like us to tell your story (anonymously if you wish) please contact our #JointheQueue Dagga Arrest Helpline.

1.Police station involved: Magaliesburg

Charge: Possession

Date: 21 February 2019

Events as told by the victim, Dylan Hughes:

So I was on my way to my aunts farm in magaliesburg and on the way I got stopped in a road block in magalies and they searched my whole car without showing me a warent. They went through my personal things like my bag and clothes. Then they asked me if I had anything and I said yes I have a small bit of weed and I gave it to them telling them that I use it for my stutter which it does help with..then they said I have to show them a doctors certificate which I didn’t have. They didn’t like that so they arrested me and took me to the police station and booked me. They took pictures and put me in tight feet chains which left blisters on both my feet. I have to appear in court on the 26th of February. This is my first offence. When I got to court they called me to one side and said don’t do it again and go.

2.Police station involved: Cleveland, Johannesburg

Charge: Dealing

Events as told by the victim, Anonymous: On 8 August 2018, at approximately 9am, my home was invaded by police who apparently had a search warrant (that I to this day have not seen). They arrested myself and my fiancee for the possession and distribution of dagga. We spent 2 nights in jail… They refused to formally lay charges until after 4 that afternoon. There was a detailed discussion between the police as to what the charges would be, stating (in my presence) that if the charge were only possession, bail would be arranged and we wouldn’t spend time in jail. What was also stated was that if we were formally charged before 4pm, then I would get to appear in court on the same day, also not spending time in jail, which was unacceptable for them. So they settled on distribution saying that we could negotiate it down in court. I don’t know the law, but I was under the impression that only judges could pass judgement on jail time, yet these law enforcement officials manipulated the system so they could pass their own personal judgement. Which I suppose is part and parcel of the procedure, but I find it unacceptable especially considering that this was done while violating my rights. Last I saw invasion of privacy was a punishable offence. I grew up a black man during apartheid, and have had enough of my rights being violated by the state. I will not tolerate any more. It seems to me, the only way to stop any unnecessary future home invasions is to make sure they are well aware, that if they violate any more of my rights, or if they harass me any further, they will be punished… severely.

The day of the arrest, the police were going through my home like it was an open day. Police were coming and going as they saw fit, and after repeated requests to keep the gates locked so my dog would not get out, my dog eventually got out, and I had to chase her down the street. What kind of police officials do we have that the alleged criminals have to ask the police to be responsible?  During the home invasion, there was a moment when the police asked me something about using the dagga, which guided my attention to my smoking box when I noticed some property was missing… it may have been something small and cheap, but it was still missing. I even made mention of it, in the presence of 2 officers, making sure to ask my fiance in the next room “babe, where are the crushers” . I later even saw a few officers taking toothpicks without my consent… as far as i am concerned, that constitutes theft. Also unacceptable.

The invasion lasted 8 hours, during which the police were very adamant that I stay away from the evidence collecting process. they kept me in my home, while the forensics team collected and destroyed my property from the grow room. Never once having me present to validate what was taken. All the while saying how impressive and neat the quality of my “hydroponics lab” was. Pease note, that I do not nor have I ever grown hydroponics. This being their job, I would assume they would know the difference. I will list details of damaged and taken property at the end of this mail. However, at this point, it is notable that our cell phones and my home cctv recorder was taken, saying it would be returned within 2 weeks. When we got to Cleveland police station we were told that we had 82 plants. on the day of the bail hearing, it was said we had 32. We received two case numbers.

Our bail hearing was Friday 10 Aug and we were released on bail. When I got home, I noticed that my property was absolutely trashed. They had cut extension cords into half meter lengths. they had smashed plugs, timers, temperature and ph sensors, they had cut my tents to shreds. Looked like the work of vindictive children who enjoyed destruction way too much. Especially considering everything they destroyed could easily have been packed up and collected as evidence. Our first hearing was scheduled for 18 September. On 18 September, the state postponed saying they needed a witness statement. On 23 Oct we appeared again, and the state was still not ready. Our lawyer submitted a letter of representation based on the constitutional ruling. The letter was ignored, and later that afternoon our lawyer was called to have us appear the next day. 24 October the charges were withdrawn.

Regardless of repeated attempts from myself as well as my lawyer, we could not get any property returned… I assumed it was because of incompetence, but I later came to question if that were indeed the case.

On 8 January 2019 police showed up at my door saying that they were looking for me in court, and that they needed my contact details and id number. I was not alone with them, which is probably why the request was made. I say this because 5 minutes later a policeman called me on my phone, claiming to be a detective warrant officer Peterson from the DPCI. The number used to call me was 0826367369 registered to Thandah Makoti on True Caller. I have a witness to my side of the conversation. He said that my case was to be put back on the roll, and I needed to appear in court on 28 January… he also said that we could settle that out of court if I wished. To which I responded directly… Are you asking me for a bribe? He cautiously answered yes. I immediately called my lawyer who advised me that it was an attempt at extortion. This is where I started questioning the late return of my cctv recorder… was this premeditated? It is entirely possible. This corrupt official could have been caught on camera, but the camera was in the hands of the same officials. I immediately mailed anti corruption help lines and  that same day, I contacted Charl from Join the Queue.

Charl advised me and gave me some time to collect funds to get the Stay of Prosecution process started. The next week, while I was inside doing the transfer for Join the Queue, my fiance sisters’ car was vandalised outside my property… rear view mirrors stolen. Also could have been caught on camera, but still no cctv recorder. case number for the mirror theft is x.

The day after I spoke to you on the phone, the arresting officers came by unannounced to return my cell phones and recorder. I assume because they were probably questioned because of the extortion case I opened with the anti corruption unit. It should be noted that my cell phone is not in the same condition it was when it left, and the hard drive of my recorder has been formatted, so no footage from the arrest is left. They insisted that they had nothing more of mine, to which I did not respond. Because let’s face it, it didn’t take them 8 hours to collect 2 cell phones and a cctv recorder. Should they not be held accountable for the car damage as well as making my home no longer a safe place? Not only have they exposed me to criminals, but they have exposed me to their crimes of their incompetence and corruption. Another expense incurred because of the police incompetence is that I had to buy a new cell phone. It may seem unreasonable, but I need to be reachable, not only by my lawyer, but also in the event that some business presented itself. When the police returned my cctv recorder, they adamantly said that the only guy with my docket was arresting officer, yet the extortionist had my details… did he sell them? I can’t say. It is entirely possible. 

As you can see, my trust in law enforcement has been gravely damaged, so if possible, I would like to see a list of evidence collected from my home. I am almost certain there will be property that was taken that is not on that list, and if that is the case, I want criminal charges laid for theft…. Today i got a call from det warrant officer naidoo from crime intelligence at the special investigation unit saying he is reopening the case. There was so much wrong with this guy he is talking about licences to gro! But just of the matter is, we need to appear in court, because we had apparently 4ok worth of weed. In court it was said 3k, and to this day nobody has weighed anything in my presence. When i asked about the evidence they said it was destroyed because it was used in a crime. For the record, i had 32 plants(including clones, half of which die) spaced out to harvest 3 plants a month. They confiscated about 80 grams.

 

The victim wrote this open letter to the SAPS:

Cannabis, a letter to the law.

You invade my home, destroy my property, threaten my life and that of my family. Traumatize everyone in the home. All the while helping yourself to my belongings. Yet regardless of my attempts to show you nothing but respect, kindness and compliance, all you have to offer is disdain, judgement, disrespect and aggression. You take what you want, yet you have the audacity to call me a criminal. Theft is still theft… even if it’s just a toothpick. Regardless, you feel I belong in jail for growing and ingesting all natural products in the privacy of my own home at my own expense. Where is the logic in that? Your moral compass is obviously pointing a bit left of North. You are the leaders of the community, and you have a responsibility to ensure community safety… how exactly is me keeping to myself being any kind of danger to the community?

As law enforcement, I would assume (however ridiculous it may seem) that you are wired to question everything. Your brains should by definition never be satisfied with the obvious. Have you even for 1 second question the morality of the law you uphold with such vigour? Have you ever taken time to look for actual facts concerning this atrocious plant? I mean actual facts not based on archaic laws designed to restrict racial integration. Facts proven by science, research and studies not someone who saw it with their own eyes. Yes, that is what you told me when I asked about proof and research. Would you believe me if I told you that? When has “I saw it with my own eyes” ever been enough to settle any argument? As law enforcement, would that argument hold up in court? It took you 2 hours to totally obliterate what took me 5 minutes to disassemble… it’s no wonder you seem so shocked to see someone take pride in what they do. Maybe you should start taking pride in what you do. Maybe you should start thinking about what you do. Maybe, you should start changing the way you think, because if you do not, It seems to me that you, as well as the rest of the country are in for a rocky road ahead. Will it not make your job easier to actually do a little research? After all, knowledge is power. It seems only logical that you would empower yourself.

Have you ever asked yourself what the possible consequences are of what you are doing? What will happen to me for minding my business and trying not to hurt anyone? Will I be sent to jail? Will I spend time with hardened criminals, rapists, murderers, gangsters? What kind of altercations could possibly happen in a situation like that? Could I be raped? Could I be murdered? Could I be beaten to a coma? If you answered yes to a single of these questions, have you asked yourself if I deserve that? Any of these questions need not necessarily prevent you from doing your job, it might just convince you to be a bit more respectful. A bit more considerate. A bit more civil. A bit more kind. It might just change the attitude you have towards me when you invade my home the next time.

I urge you to consider this. Not too long ago, inter racial marriage was illegal. Homosexual marriage was illegal. People of colour voting was illegal. Women voting was illegal. Yes, believe it or not, laws can not only be immoral, but they can also change. Please, for your own sake, and that of the country, start opening your minds. Start thinking about everything. Archaic , oppressive laws would not last as long as they do if our leaders stepped forward and questioned them. More importantly, there would be far less long term consequences if you did. To simplify, I will associate with our own immoral history… for years white people are told they are superior in every way. All their lives they are told anyone non white is less than human. Then the law changed. How easy would you say it was for those white people to change the way they think? Do you honestly think that they realised overnight that what they had been taught all their lives was wrong? No! You cannot change the way you think until you start questioning what you believe. These white people will stay racist until they question why they are. Until they educate themselves, it is impossible for them to change. That is why all these years later we still see racism. It is only the stupid, ignorant, arrogant and ll informed that hold on to those beliefs. Don’t become one of them.

— — —

This article originally appeared on fieldsofgreenforall.co.za and was published with permission.