HOOKERs: cops in court

Nkosana Lekotjolo

Nkosana Lekotjolo

Twelve officers from the Johannesburg Central police station will appear in the Johannesburg magistrate's court today facing charges of assault, extortion and rape.

Colleagues arrested the seven female and five male officers after 15 more prostitutes yesterday identified them in an identity parade at the station.

On Monday, two other prostitutes identified the officers and accused them of trying to extort bribes after arresting them at the weekend. They said those who could not pay up were assaulted and showed Sowetan weals all over their bodies from being sjambokked.

One woman said she was taken to a room at the station and allegedly raped by an officer.

Inspector Xoli Mbele said most of the accused officers were reservists, including the one charged with raping a prostitute.

"The officers are in custody. I cannot confirm if they have been suspended or not," said Mbele.

The 15 prostitutes descended on the police station on Tuesday to identify the alleged perpetrators who had extorted bribes and assaulted them.

Sowetan broke the story on Monday, detailing the women's claims that they had been sjambokked, punched, kicked and insulted by the officers on Friday night on the streets of Johannesburg and Hillbrow.

They said police regularly demanded bribes to release them from holding cells.

One of the women claimed that officers had refused to register her charge of rape against their colleague.

The desk officers were arrested and face internal disciplinary hearings once the criminal matters have been settled.

Similar claims have been made against patrol officers in Johannesburg for years. Many officers have been accused of running a highly profitable sideline activity of arresting prostitutes and demanding bribes to release them.

Senior officers have always vowed to eliminate the practice.

Sowetan contacted community safety MEC Firoz Cachalia's office yesterday to find out what the authorities planned to do to eliminate this abuse of power by police officers.

Cachalia had not responded at the time of going to press.