Nono, the Square’s famed left-handed guitarist was forcefully removed from the area on Monday afternoon for allegedly contravening city by-laws – essentially for performing for longer than what his permit allowed.
According to the City, he was only permitted to play from 12.45pm to 2pm on weekdays, and between 10am and midnight on weekends. “Unfortunately, he disregarded the regulations,” said Jean-Pierre Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security.
Smith said that “allegations were made that the busker was treated in an inappropriate manner”.
In fact, cellphone video footage showed Nono being assaulted by about six metro police officers, and then being dragged, by his hands and feet, through Greenmarket Square.
Nono, who has been performing at the Square since 2008, told the Cape Times newspaper on Monday, “They dragged me on the ground and tore my clothes. That hurt me. It broke my heart.” But Smith said Nono and his wife, Abigail, had “verbally abused” the police officers who tried to remove him from the scene. These officers were then “forced” to “detain” the couple, he said.
The neck of the busker’s guitar was broken as he resisted being placed in the back of a police van. The couple were taken to the police station and Nono was issued with a R1 500 fine.
Smith said the investigation would determine if “excessive” force was used in the incident, and said that anyone found guilty of this would be charged.
“The City supports busking and creative forms of entrepreneurship. In this case, officers reported that they were merely trying to enforce that the busker stick to the regulated times, following a number of complaints from local businesses,” he said. But reporters on the scene could not find any businessmen in the area who appeared aggrieved with Nono’s presence.
Eyewitnesses interviewed were reportedly outraged at the incident and the display of force used by the police.
Western Cape minister for community safety Dan Plato, confirmed that an investigation into the incident would be launched. Smith said the law should be enforced in a way that respected the rights and dignity of others.
Nono told the Cape Times: “I would really like to tell those police that I did not rob anyone, or break into anyone’s house. “I’m playing to support my family. There is nothing else I can do to support my family. They must just let me work.”
Footage of the incident also caused outrage on Twitter.
What happened to blind busker Goodman Nono is a symptom of JP Smith's authoritarian leadership. His metro police are gangsters in uniform.
— Murray Ingram (@Murrayingram) July 9, 2013
Colin Forrester called on Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to take responsibility for the incident:
— Colin Forrester (@ColinForrie) July 9, 2013