Tshwane metro police attack hawkers, confiscate goods

Informal traders in Pretoria say they were attacked by members of the Tshwane metro police on Friday.

The vendors gathered outside the Pretoria Magistrate's Court, where their colleagues were appearing after being arrested on Wednesday by the metro police.

Hawker Foster Jan Rivombo was shot dead during the scuffle.

Wilfred Machona (28) took off his hat and sunglasses to reveal a swollen eye and blisters on his face.

"I am coming from the Pretoria Central police station, where I have opened a case of assault. I was thoroughly beaten by the police officers on Monday and was admitted to hospital. I was discharged on Wednesday," he said.

"They wanted to take all my stock and I asked that they issue me with a fine and a ticket, which I would use to collect my stuff after paying the fine. They beat me up seriously: kicked me all over," said Machona.

Taken stock
He said he has been selling sweets worth about R200. Machona said all his stock was taken, but that no ticket was issued.

"As vendors, we know that the police take our stuff and sell it to other hawkers. The stock is not booked anywhere. The officers either take it home or sell it," said Machona.

"I have lost everything, and only got away with the severe beating. I have a family to look after, and my child is three-months-old. I have no other means to survive."

Machona said he had worked closely with Rivombo. "He was my friend. We worked together in the streets. He was trying to make ends meet, like anyone else," Machona said.

Livinux Eze, another informal trader, alleged that he had also been harassed by the metro police, even though he had the documentation issued by the city to hawkers.

Pretoria police said they were investigating a case of murder following the shooting of the hawker during a confrontation with the metro police.

Captain Agnes Huma said the Tshwane metro police claimed they were attacked by the informal traders on Wednesday, during an operation to confiscate fruit sold on the street.

"They allege that they tried to seize fruit from the hawkers and they [the hawkers] attacked the metro police by throwing stones.

"The officers fired some shots at the crowd. A man was hit by a bullet in the upper body," she said.

"A case of murder was opened for investigation. Four suspects [hawkers] were arrested for malicious damage to property and public violence."

Huma could not say whether anyone had been arrested in connection with the hawker's death.

The Tshwane Traders' Forum disputed the metro police's version of events.

Turned ugly
Chairperson Shoes Maloka said the police raid turned ugly when vendors insisted on being issued with fines and a ticket to prove that their stock had been confiscated.

"The traders simply wanted to be given tickets which would enable them to pay the fines and get their goods back as the by-laws say.

The police officers then called for backup, and many Tshwane vehicles arrived with officers cocking their guns.

"They say the traders are undermining the police. They started shooting at [the vendor]. One bullet [hit] him and another missed him. They called an ambulance after several hours," Maloka said.

He said four vendors were arrested for interfering when they intervened to demand that the police call an ambulance.

Tshwane metro police spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba referred questions to mayoral spokesperson Blessing Manale, who could not be reached for comment on Friday. – Sapa

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