Patrons claim police shot at them during midnight bust

Masoka Dube

Eleven attempted murder charges have been laid against Mpumalanga police for allegedly shooting at patrons during a midnight raid at a tavern on Friday.

Eleven patrons were admitted to Matikwane Hospital in Mkhuhlu after sustaining injuries during the raid at Majerries Tavern in Nyongane Trust near Hazyview.

Some of the patrons, who were discharged from the hospital on Saturday, had since pressed charges against the police.

Hazyview police spokesman Captain John Mbambo confirmed yesterday that charges of attempted murder had been laid against the police after the incident.

He said the raid was prompted by complaints from residents that the tavern was a den for criminals.

"Our officers who conducted the raid were reacting to several complaints that residents are being attacked at gunpoint and robbed of their belongings during the night."

Mbambo said the patrons were initially ready to cooperate with the police but suddenly turned violent.

"They threw all sorts of objects, including empty, half and full beer bottles, at the police, who were forced to run out of the tavern. Police were later forced to shoot pellet bullets at the patrons who kept on attacking."

A police backup team arrived at the scene and arrangements were made for the injured to be taken to the nearby Matikwane Hospital.

Most of the victims sustained injuries to their buttocks and backs.

One of the discharged patrons, Promise Riba, 24, said he was shot when he refused to be searched twice.

"I was searched and was leaving the door when another policeman stopped me in order to search me for the second time while pointing a long gun at me.

"He started pushing me around when I told him I had already been searched."

None of the police officers were injured during the scuffle and no weapons were found on the patrons.

The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD), a police watchdog, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, many of the patrons vowed to personally contact the ICD today, insisting that the police used live ammunition during the raid. But police have denied this.