Cops accused of terrorising tarvens back on the job

Police officers are accused of extorting tarvens.
Police officers are accused of extorting tarvens.

Two police officers nabbed for alleged extortion of money from tavern owners are back at work despite facing serious charges of corruption.

The officers from Duduza and Tsakane in Ekurhuleni were caught red-handed by their own after allegedly terrorising tavern owners on the East Rand for more than a year. They allegedly demanded to be paid bribes claiming tavern owners were not legally compliant.

Warrant officers Naphtali Mafuyeka, 55, and Lawrence Kgomo, 51, who work for the firearms, liquor and second hand goods control (Flash) unit in Duduza appeared in the Springs magistrate's court on July 9.

They were released on R1000 bail each after being charged with extortion and corruption. Their case is expected back in court tomorrow.

They allegedly extorted R5 000 from a tavern owner in Duduza. The pair were apprehended when they returned to the same tavern owner a week later and demanded a further R2 500.

The owner reported them to the provincial anti-corruption unit and a trap was set.

The two were arrested during an exchange of money with the complainant.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Lungelo Dlamini confirmed the anti-corruption unit swooped on their own. He said internal investigations were concluded but a date for departmental proceedings was yet to be set.

Police sources questioned the pair's return to work.

"They work in the streets and their team is not that big. They can easily threaten the complainants and can influence the investigations," one police officer told Sowetan.

Dlamini said they returned to work after their suspension lapsed while internal investigations were still ongoing.

Several tavern owners told Sowetan the officers would follow them to malls and demand they give them money.

Bongiwe Nhlapo, a tavern owner in Duduza who conceded she operated without a permit, alleged that Mafuyeka extorted R4000 from her for over the past year. "Before he was arrested he would come to my place of business every second to third day and demanded that I give him anything between R100-R500."

Another tavern owner, who asked not to be named, said he lost as much as R15 000 worth of alcohol to the pair.

"They would come to our tavern and claimed that we were operating without permits and would take our liquor. But when we enquired at the Liquor Board, our permits were up to date."

A licensed bottle store owner whose establishment doubles up as a pub over weekends said although Mafuyeka did not explicitly ask for a bribe, he had suggested it to him. He asked not to be named because he feared being victimised. "He would ask me to 'help' him if he was in a sticky situation," he said.

"Over the past year and a half, I have given him close to R5 000. It was not because I needed a favour from him because my business is compliant, but because we as liquor store owners work closely with the police and often need their assistance."

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