Some residents of the Smutsville community are up in arms, alleging they suffered brutality at the hands of a SAPS unit from George. They believe members of the unit should be brought to book for cases of hit and run, wrongful arrest and assault.
One of the locals involved was thirty year old father of three children Derrick Krigge. He says that it all started on Friday 28 April, just after 8.30pm, when he was driving his van along Witbooi Street in Smutsville, giving some teenage family members a lift to a party. He saw a line of five SAPS vehicles coming down the road towards him, and realising there was little room on the narrow road he swung over to the curb to give them more room.
“As I pulled over I felt my wheels scrape the curb, so I stopped to see if there was any damage,” he later told us, “The police vehicles also stopped, and one of the policemen got out and shouted for me to get back in my car.”
Krigge says that he told the policeman he was just checking if his car was ok, but the uniformed man strode up and grabbed him.
“He threw me onto my van and held me there. I kept asking ‘What did I do wrong’ but he just got rougher and rougher,” he claimed. He says he instinctively started struggling, as some of the other police members came to assist their colleague.
Krigge says that whilst the youngsters sat in his van, helplessly watching what was happening to their uncle, one of the officers tried to get him into a headlock and force him into the police van.
“I was pushing away as hard as I could. I knew I had done nothing wrong. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. They had no reason to arrest me, and I just didn’t want to end up in that van,” he told us.
But despite his struggles Krigge says he was eventually overpowered and dragged to the back of the SAPS vehicle. “One of them hit me so hard I fell in,” he recalls, “Then they sprayed pepper spray into the back, and put the covers down. I could barely breathe.”
Meanwhile Krigge’s 17 year old niece got out of his van to ask one of the policemen why they were hurting her uncle. His reaction, she later told her father Eugene Avery, was to grab her by the front of her shirt, lift her up and push her back into Krigge’s van. The teens immediately phoned Krigge’s wife Lee-Ann and her cousin Esmarelda Baker (whose daughter had also been in the car) to tell them what had happened. The two women rushed to the scene.
The SAPS vehicle had driven off with Krigge inside, but wasn’t gone long before it circled round and went back to Witbooi Street. When it stopped, Lee-Ann Krigge and Baker rushed to ask the SAPS members on what grounds Krigge had been arrested.
“They started telling us he had assaulted a police man, but witnesses who had seen everything said that that wasn’t what had happened,” Baker told us later, “So we went around to the front of the SAPS vehicle to write down the number.”
She said that there were quite a few people around, including youngsters, so she was amazed when the SAPS members started spraying pepper spray from the vehicles.
“There was children standing near me and I turned to push them back, away from the spray. That’s when the police van was driven into me.”
She said it hit her on the left side at ribcage height. She hit the ground hard, and the people standing nearby quickly grabbed to pull her out of the way of the SAPS van.
“It just carried on driving, and just missed me. Everyone was shouting for it to stop, but it drove away,” she told us.
The injured lady’s brother-in-law Eugene Avery was also on the scene and witnessed what was happening. He quickly climbed into his car and chased after the van, flashing his lights and hooting for it to stop, but without luck.
He says he eventually caught up with them at Sedgefield Police Station, where he stormed in to ask why Krigge had been taken in, and why the SAPS van had driven away after hitting someone.
“I asked the Captain in charge of the George operation if he would go to the scene,” Avery told us, “At first he ignored me, then he told me I wasn’t his boss. Then eventually he said he would send two men to investigate.”
He said that the station personnel contacted a captain from Knysna, who also came through to the station, but other than a threat to arrest Avery himself, this did not change the situation.
Meanwhile on Witbooi Street someone had called both Marti Rooi of Sedge First Aid and the Lions Response Vehicle, and Baker was attended to until the ambulance arrived to take her to Knysna Provincial Hospital. Though there were no broken bones she suffered severe bruising to her upper body, especially her ribs where the vehicle had hit her. The medical staff also put her in a neck brace, and kept her under observation until the following afternoon.
Krigge was taken to Knysna Station, where he says he was eventually charged on Saturday afternoon with ‘Resisting Arrest’ and ‘Assaulting a Police Officer’.
On Sunday he was released, with all charges dropped.
Whilst in hospital Baker was visited by a Knysna SAPS member who took down details of her complaint. At her request he said that a case of ‘negligent driving’ would be opened against the SAPS officer in question, though when Avery checked at Knysna Station on Sunday afternoon there was nothing in the SAPS system. He was advised to ask at Sedgefield Station for someone to take the van and interview Baker, who was still immobile. This he did and a SAPS member took her statement. A case number was later issued, and details sent to her cell phone.
Krigge intends to open a case of Assault and Unlawful Arrest against the SAPS members involved.
SAPS Knysna and George were approached for comment, and Captain Malcolm Pojie, Provincial Communication & Liaison Service, confirmed that a case of negligent driving has been opened.
“SAPS members have been implicated, and once investigation has been completed the results will be submitted to the Senior Public Prosecuter for a decision as to what further action should be taken,” he said. “If anyone feels they have been dealt with unfairly by SAPS they should please report to the Station Commander.”