Maverick Citizen

AMAPANYAZA ASSAULT

‘They started beating me, kicking me’ – Lesufi’s Gauteng crime prevention wardens accused of brutal assault

‘They started beating me, kicking me’ – Lesufi’s Gauteng crime prevention wardens accused of brutal assault
On 31 May 2023, an individual whose name we are withholding for his safety was allegedly assaulted by members of the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens. ‘I am still bedridden due to the assault and fearful for my life,’ he said. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

As part of his efforts to reduce crime, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi introduced 6,000 ‘crime prevention wardens’ to monitor and police the province. The initiative was met with scepticism and questions from political parties, independent policing consultants and civil rights organisations regarding their legality. Now, allegations of assault by the wardens have emerged.

During his maiden State of the Province Address in February 2023, Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi said the issue of fighting crime would be his administration’s priority.

lesufi wardens

Premier of Gauteng Panyaza Lesufi delivers an update on newly recruited crime prevention wardens at Grant Central Boulevard in Midrand on 28 April 2023. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

To this end, Lesufi announced a list of measures, including increasing Gauteng’s budget for fighting crime from R750-million to a multibillion-rand budget over the next three years, the procurement of 180 state-of-the-art drones, and the training of 6,000 crime prevention wardens (CPWs) — young men and women employed to monitor and police Gauteng around the clock.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Billions of rands, CCTVs, drones, helicopters… inside Panyaza Lesufi’s grand plan to tackle crime in Gauteng

Reports of brutality

lesufi wardens

Gauteng crime prevention wardens. (Photo: Twitter / Gauteng Government)

One of the concerns expressed by civil society groups specialising in policing, such as the Institute for Security Studies, is that poorly trained and poorly monitored CPWs could abuse their power – a problem evident in the SA Police Service.

Now, Daily Maverick has received reports of brutality by the CPWs.

On 25 May, an individual (whose name we are withholding) from Katlehong had his home searched by several of Lesufi’s crime prevention wardens.

“They said it was a random search and that they were looking for possible suspects selling drugs,” he said.

He allowed the search as he was under the impression that the wardens were members of the SA National Defence Force due to their green uniforms which resembled those of the army.

“There was a huge number of them… anything between 15, 20 to even 30 of these guys wearing ski masks and green uniforms,” he said.

“I did tell them that I had my own supply of cannabis for personal use, which they acknowledged. They put it to one side and continued to search the room,” he said.

The wardens conducted a thorough search, checking in the ceiling, rifling through bags, inspecting cupboards and even his food.

“I found it very unusual for them to dig in your food, like your maize, your sugar, your rice and such, and then throw it away. At the end of the day, they are throwing someone’s food out… what are you left to eat after they found nothing?”

He said even though the men found nothing, they threatened to come back again.

He spoke to his landlord who informed him that these were not soldiers, but were crime prevention wardens.

“I don’t know what is their job description… sometimes I see them around the streets,” said the landlord, who asked not to be named.

The second encounter

On 31 May, the victim said he had his second encounter with the wardens. 

He told Daily Maverick that he saw them climbing over the gate, which was locked, and began closing his front door.

“A bunch of them began shouting and demanding that I open the door and let them search,” he said.

“I refused because when they came the first time, they left my place in such a state.”

He called his landlord to speak to the wardens.

“They kept saying I must open up so they can search because there’s a drug dealer selling drugs to children here and that I’m the drug dealer,” he said.

lesufi wardens

The man from Katlehong had his home searched by several of Lesufi’s crime prevention wardens. ‘They said something is not right with my accent and asked if I am a foreigner or a local.’ After showing them his South African ID, the wardens said it was fake and continued to assault him. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

When the landlord arrived, the wardens told her they needed to search the property.

“There were so many of them, maybe over 30 of them, and they told me they heard there was someone selling drugs. I told them no one is selling drugs here. I am the landlord and I wouldn’t allow that on my property.”

Eventually, it was agreed that three wardens would conduct a search, and leave if they found nothing.

He again disclosed the cannabis he keeps for personal use.

“They searched and searched and then started throwing my food out again. That’s when I started asking questions,” he said. 

lesufi wardens

‘The one that was standing behind me picked me up and threw me against the wall. The one warden that was standing with my landlord pushed her out and the rest of the wardens came in.’ (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

One of the wardens demanded that he hand over the cannabis, which he refused to do.

“That’s kind of unfair because I’m not out in the streets. I’m in my room minding my own business,” he said.

It was then that the three wardens began assaulting him.

“The one that was standing behind me picked me up and threw me against the wall. The one warden that was standing with my landlord pushed her out and the rest of the wardens came in,” he said.

“They began beating me, kicking me… they picked me up and threw me against the wall again. They took my cannabis…

“They said something is not right with my accent and asked if I am a foreigner or a local.”

After showing them his South African ID, the wardens said it was fake and continued to assault him.

lesufi wardens

‘I was urinating blood and throwing up… the ambulance eventually came and took me to the hospital in Vosloorus.’ (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“A female police officer in uniform then came into the room and also accused me of being a foreigner.”

After showing them his birth certificate, the group left.

“I started hearing screaming from the room and I saw something was not right with him, so I called an ambulance,” the landlord said.

A series of hospital stays

“I was urinating blood and throwing up… the ambulance eventually came and took me to the hospital in Vosloorus,” he said.

He was transported to Thelle Mogoerane Regional Hospital, where he remained from 31 May to 5 June. He was hospitalised again from 9 to 13 June with chest pains.

“They said it could have been pneumonia or an infection. However, I was struggling to breathe… when I was assaulted, they hit me all over – from my head down to my groin area,” he said.

An X-ray revealed that fluid in his lungs was causing his breathing difficulties.

lesufi wardens

‘They told us there was a blockage in my urethra or that it had been severed. The wardens were kicking me in this area.’ (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

On 4 August, he went to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital for a scan of his urinary system.

“They told us there was a blockage in my urethra or that it had been severed. The wardens were kicking me in this area.

He was told the hospital would send the scan results to Thelle Mogoerane Hospital. However, this never happened.

The woman assisting him at Thelle Mogoerane said it was unusual for staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath to say they would email the results as this is not something they usually did.

Silence from authorities

On 15 June, he went to the Katlehong North Police Station and opened a case of assault against the wardens. 

“Right away we got resistance. I don’t know if he was the commander or the chief of the police station, but there was this fairly old gentleman who had to ask the police officers at least three times before they agreed to assist us in opening the case against the wardens,” he said.

“The police officer said the wardens had a right to search without a search warrant and that he was agreeing with what transpired during the search, so even when he was taking down my statement, it didn’t seem like it would go anywhere,” he said.

After opening a case, he returned to Thelle Mogoerane Hospital to obtain a J88 form documenting medical evidence that may be needed to obtain a conviction in an assault case.

The form is completed by a doctor and provides observations on the physical and emotional state of the victim during their presentation to a health facility.

“At the hospital, they said we mustn’t come for the form or phone them and that we will instead get an SMS, or they will phone us to pick up the form so we can submit it at the police station,” he said.

Since then, he has not received any communication from the hospital regarding the J88 form.

On 16 June, he received an SMS from the police with his case number and a phone call from a sergeant handling his case. The sergeant agreed to come to his home to speak to him and his landlord, who could provide a witness statement. He also informed the sergeant that he was able to identify two individuals in the group who assaulted him — a policewoman in full uniform as well as a man dressed in casual clothing.

 “The sergeant said she would give me a call the following day when she was on the way. She never arrived and I have heard nothing more from her.”

Lt-Col Mavela Masondo confirmed that a case of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm had been opened at Katlehong North Police Station.

“An investigation is under way. No arrests have been made yet,” he said.

Masondo did not respond to questions on why the sergeant handling the case had not yet met the victim.

After weeks of no communication from the police, the victim emailed a complaint on ​​12 July to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). 

Ipid national spokesperson, Robbie Raburabu, said that although he could not verify if Ipid had received the email, he said the CPWs did not fall under their ambit.

“I don’t have access to those emails… in any event, I think those cases would go directly to the province in Gauteng and they will be sorted there,” he said.

“But remember, you have to report the case to the police and the police have an obligation to send the case to us, so we don’t receive cases directly,” he said.

Sello Maremane, a training coordinator for the CPWs, said he was not aware of the case.

“If there is a criminal case against them, the police will investigate our wardens. We are not police officers so we do not fall within the ambit of Ipid, but you may contact the Public Service Commission or SAPS,” he said.

The Gauteng government denied knowledge of allegations of assaults by wardens. A more detailed response will be reflected in a second story.

Gauteng’s Crime Prevention Wardens were set up unlawfully, risk abuse of police powers – experts

The start of amaPanyaza

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety in November 2022 recruited CPWs to augment the work of law enforcement officials and reduce crime levels in the province.

On 30 April 2023, a ceremony was held in Soshanguve, Pretoria, where Lesufi addressed 3,000 of these wardens, colloquially known as amaPanyaza, to be dispatched to 361 Gauteng wards — mainly in townships and informal settlements – on 1 May. A second cohort of 2,000 wardens was unveiled at the Tsakane Stadium in Ekurhuleni on 4 June.

The introduction of the CPWs has been criticised by political parties and civil society, including the DA, who view them as inexperienced and ill-equipped, and consider them an ‘“election ploy”.

The wardens also come with a hefty price tag. Faith Mazibuko, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, said during a media briefing on 28 April that the provincial government had spent about R450-million on the CPW programme, which included cars, accommodation, food, transport and uniforms.

The Gauteng Department of Community Safety’s budget was doubled in line with Lesufi’s war on crime. In 2023/24 the department was allocated R2.7-billion, in comparison to the R1.3-billion it was allocated in the previous financial year, Lesufi’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told Daily Maverick.

The current situation

Meanwhile, the victim’s landlord said she is still trying to make sense of the incident and has not seen the wardens since the assault.

“I did not understand what was happening. I am still shocked that it even happened. This is very serious because he is injured very badly,” she said. 

Following the assault, the victim has not been able to work and continues to suffer from ill health.

“I’ve been missing out on a number of opportunities because of the condition I’m in,” he said.

“I am in the process of getting legal representation but it’s a little bit difficult, especially when it comes to finances,” he said.

Speaking to Daily Maverick, the victim’s mother, a domestic worker, said she wants to see a thorough investigation into the attack on her son.

“We need a proper investigation to be done as well as compensation for proper healthcare, travelling back and forward to the hospital, as well as the pain, suffering and trauma,” she said.

“Every day when we go to the doctor or the hospital, it is the same thing… nothing is being done to help him cope with the pain. They just keep saying ‘next time, next time, next time’, but they never do it,” she said.

On 14 August, her son was told he needed to have urethroplasty surgery — a procedure to correct damage to the urethra from scarring and he had been placed on a lengthy waiting list.

“We need help here. I can’t see my son in the pain that he is in every day. Really, something has to be done… I want justice to be done here.” DM

This article forms part of a series investigating the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens and the legal framework they operate under. As part of our investigation, Daily Maverick has approached relevant government departments. In an article that will follow, we will set out these responses. Anyone with further information should contact [email protected]

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • John Millar says:

    Hope they will manage to sue Comrade Lesufi in his private capacity about these unfortunate incidents…

    • Dennis Bailey says:

      Yeah, otherwise, the taxpayer pays legal fees and compensation. This is a horrendous story. How is it different to Putin’s abductions? Clear evidence of your fast becoming a dysfunctional police / fascist state.

    • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

      We already have one underskilled and suspect police force. I know, rather than fix it, let’s create another one so we can live in the world of mass crime and useless confusion the ANC works so hard to achieve. Great idea Mr Lesufi.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    We already have one underskilled and suspect police force.

    I know, rather than fix it, let’s create another one so we can live in the world of mass crime and useless confusion the ANC works so hard to achieve.

    Great idea Mr Lesufi.

  • Annemarie Hendrikz says:

    It should potentially be such a positive thing that these people have a decent work opportunity, linked to restoring calm and safety to our troubled community, instead of such awful stories – something of a reminder of the ‘kitskonstabels’ of apartheid.

    • Stuart Kaptein says:

      Exactly my thoughts.

    • Matthew Hall says:

      This is a terrible thing any way you care to slice it. This is not ‘job creation’ or ‘work opportunities’. This is a private militia operating outside of the law, and reminds me of Hitler’s Brown Shirts, predecessors to the SA and then SS, which were not a lovely bunch of guys, if you catch my drift.

      This is a huge problem.

      Repeat: This is a HUGE problem.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    If thet are not police why do they have the right to search without a warrant?
    Sounds like Nazi Brownshirts? Amazing how Socialism can be abused by the powerful

  • David C says:

    Civil Society organisations need to legally challenge this initiative ASAP. This initiative has nothing to do with crime prevention, and has everything to do with the ANC creating a youth-based para-military force subject to no defined legislation, which is beholden to the ANC as the paymaster. ANC officials can direct these “Wardens” to carry out campaigns of intimidation and terror and use them to scare people into submission or into voting for the ANC, and yet claim ignorance when human-rights abuses are reported. Individual wardens are disposable to the ANC and can easily be sacrificed if they happen to get caught. This is straight out of the classic Fascist playbook and needs to be shutdown immediately.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Lesufi’s GESTAPO at work. No wonder he resorts to these kind of measures, hasn’t he gotten away of blowing over R 400m for the useless fogging of class rooms? The most useless politicians have the greatest ambitions.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    ‘As part of his efforts to reduce crime, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi introduced 6,000 ‘crime prevention wardens’ to monitor and police the province’

    That is such a lie. Lesufi (who has already been found to have lied while under oath to a judge – he should be in jail just for that), was ONLY playing politics trying to avoid the crushing defeat the ANC cadre thieves are going to get in Gauteng and KZN in 2024

  • Cornay Bester says:

    History have shown us the more the messier….

  • Denise Smit says:

    Thank you DM for exposing this and continuing to investigate. I agree with you John Millar. It is time Lesufi is taken to court for all the damage he causes. He would have had a very friendly chat with Maile not a dissiplinary one, Denise Smit

  • Stuart Kaptein says:

    Just ANC thugs, paid for by taxes (surprise, surprise). They will be used to intimidate and assault anyone who doesn’t vote ANC… it’s just Zimbabwe 2.0

  • Denise Smit says:

    They are all partners in crime and protecting one another. Imagine these wardens have no one to account to, what they can get away with if they are not regulated. you are very naive Me Hendrickz. Denise Smit

  • Hilary Morris says:

    It seems that one of the few skills the ANC possesses is the ability to breed thugs. No wonder the (so-called) Secretary General cheers on Zimbabwe. What a shameful circus Lesufi has created.

  • jonathan65 says:

    Follow the money and you’ll uncover the real reasons for every political move made.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    Gratuitous violence is far too widespread in SA. Nothing like giving an ignorant and stupid person a uniform and the power that goes with it. How can it be legal to create a private army with minimum preparation and let them loose? And the hospital? Isn’t it obligatory to report wounds inflicted with violence to the police?

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    I am so sick of the disgusting abuse of power that continues to occur in our country! Filthy, disgusting bullies! If you are harming any human being for any reason but defence of yourself or another, you are a filthy criminal and deserve to rot in jail!

  • Walter Spatula says:

    When you put weak-minded people into positions of power they often become abusive, which is why in the military there’s a very clear and regimented chain of authority.

  • mitiprinting says:

    I would like to know what empowers them to operate beyond the Criminal Procedure Act 51 of 1977. Which legislation empowers them? Is such legislation constitutional? A inquiry must be instituted into the legality of the operations of these CPW.

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