Maverick Citizen

ON PATROL

A night out with the Johannesburg cops

A night out with the Johannesburg cops
Police search the occupants of a room in a compound. Many police officers expose themselves to risk when dealing with people at close quarters. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

Photojournalist Shiraaz Mohamed spent a night with members of the Brixton SAPS and private security companies as they went on patrol as the sun set on Saturday 18 July. This is his account of the evening.

I have covered the lockdown since it was enforced, working in Hillbrow, Alexandra and other Johannesburg hotspots. I extensively documented how the lockdown was enforced and if people were adhering to its regulations. 

As the virus continued to spread its destruction socially, economically and in every other aspect, I focused my cameras on other angles of the story. 

A policewoman searches the handbag of a woman. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

But after the curfew was re-implemented, I decided to go and see if people were obeying the curfew. I linked up with the guys from HMA High Risk Security and together with the Brixton SAPS, SOS Security and Reaper Tactical, we hit the streets of Brixton, Fietas, Crosby, Mayfair, Auckland Park and Melville. This patrol was part of a crime prevention operation and also to enforce lockdown regulations.

Two homeless men sit on their mattresses reading books despite police raiding the compound metres from them. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

We met at the Brixton SAPS a few hours before curfew started. We drove in convoy around Brixton. The first stop, a house that security personnel said was notorious for selling drugs and alcohol.

I was in the second vehicle of the convoy when suddenly the lead vehicle stopped. People standing outside the house saw the convoy and ran off into the yard. Doors flew open, the police rushed into the yard and I followed suit. Worried that the light was not going to be sufficient to capture any images, I waited for the guys behind me to provide light from their torches.

People standing around a fire watch as police and security personnel prepare to search the compound. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

But my concern changed when I realised how many people were in the yard. One could be carrying the virus. I felt uncomfortable and moved away, keeping a safe distance while still able to capture my images.

A policeman searches the boot of a car. Crime has increased significantly since the easing of the lockdown. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

People complied with instructions and lined up against a wall whilst being searched. Except for a few broken bottlenecks, empty alcohol bottles and the strong odour of dagga in the air, there was nothing. Everyone from the convoy sanitised their hands and off we went.

Firdows Mahomed keeps watch at a roadblock. Mahomed, who is a full-time health worker, has corona anxiety due to the stressful environment that she works in. She has more fear of contracting the virus than she does of being shot. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

The next stop was some sort of compound. A large yard cramped with many rooms. Outside, on the street, people stood around a fire while homeless people slept on pavements. A visibly drunk man wearing a mask and Superman pyjamas stood on the side of the road and spread his hands in the air as he waited to be searched. The police ignored him and went straight to the rooms in the compound where they started searching. Finding nothing, they returned to their van.

A policewoman about to search a passer-by. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

We then made our way to Auckland Park where we spotted a white BMW in the road. The cops and members of the security companies tactfully blocked in the car. The occupants of the car were searched and were told to proceed a short while later. 

Faiz Mahomed (no relation), owner of HMA High Risk Security, explained to me that during Level 5 and Level 4 of the lockdown there had been a significant decrease in crime.  That changed when we went to Level 3: “There has been a spike in crime.”

Faiz Mahomed stands beside his car on the quiet streets of Melville. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

We get a call and race towards Melville in search of a white Corolla following cars home. I sit in the passenger seat, adrenaline pumping, wondering if Mahomed would lose control of the vehicle on a bend. We find two Corollas. The first is an Uber and the driver is in such a state of shock he can hardly speak. The second is also an Uber and we continue on our way after searching his car and verifying his details.

The rest of the evening was spent conducting stop and searches as the police searched for weapons and contraband. The curfew had kicked in and the streets were desolate except for a few cars. I was surprised that people were obeying the curfew. 

A policeman watches as a car approaches him. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

There were no incidents that evening except for a few run-ins with drunks and, to my amusement, a couple caught seated on the back seat of their car. The woman’s head was on her partner’s lap but they seemed unfazed as they got out of the car, apologised and went into their yard. Strange that they were in their car, metres from their house. 

Police conduct a stop and search on Empire Road. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

As I drove home I thought of these words by Imtiaz Mahomed: 

“The work that we are doing puts us to risk every day. We sanitise, we wear PPE, but the problem is when we come into physical contact with suspects daily. Some will physically fight you, while others spit on you. By searching them you are forced to break social distancing. If you adhere to social distancing you put your life at risk. But it is all worth it. I love my job…” DM

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.8% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.2% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.2% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.2%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options