There was drama at the Johannesburg magistrate's court yesterday when 12 angry police officers accused of extortion and assaulting prostitutes turned on the media.
The police officers' message was clear: they did not want journalists to cover their case.
The officers, seven women and five men - all from Johannesburg Central police station - are facing charges of extortion, bribery and assault with intent to cause bodily harm. A rape charge against an officer accused of repeatedly raping a 24-year-old Hillbrow prostitute at the police station last Friday was dropped because of lack of evidence.
Pandemonium began before the case started when a female inspector, in full police uniform, chased everyone out of the courtroom, including journalists. The only people she allowed to remain were fellow officers who were there in solidarity with their accused colleagues.
An argument ensued between reporters and the officer, who refused them entry into the courtroom. She did not give a reason why the media was barred.
It was only after the intervention of a senior police officer that the media was let in. By this time the hearing was already in session. The officers, most of them reservists, appeared briefly before magistrate Johan Beutrix for allegedly assaulting and demanding bribes from prostitutes.
The police officers were released on warning.
Their case was postponed to August 14 for further investigation.