Elderly couple left traumatised after raid

An elderly Strandfontein couple are aggrieved after the Operation Combat Unit of the police allegedly aggressively raided their home, leaving them traumatised and their property damaged.

Veronica Vember, who is active in the community and a founder member of the Strandfontein Diabetes Support Group, said a team from Mitchell’s Plain SAPS and Durbanville SAPS came to raid their home at 10pm on Wednesday June 1 after receiving a tip-off that they were dealing drugs and are in possession of a firearm.

“These policemen came without a warrant of arrest or identification, forcing themselves into our home,” Ms Vember said.

She said the policemen, who refused to give their names, broke down the safety gate with a crowbar and were aggressive. They even nailed her ailing husband, Bennie, to the ground.

“He suffers from diabetes, hypertension, has already had two heart attacks and has four stents in his heart.”

She said they must have mistaken their home for that of a drug dealer nearby.

“They just walked through the house, only to maybe realise it is the wrong house.”

She said the police found nothing.

“I am a community healthcare worker with 30 volunteers and a retired professional nurse. I’m about living healthy, not drugs.”

She said after the raid an ambulance was called in to assess her husband, and they were both treated for shock.

“We are now traumatised and went to our doctor for treatment.”

Ms Vember said she phoned ER24 who arrived within 15 minutes to assess her husband.

She said by then, her husband’s blood pressure was 180/103 and his heartrate 91 and he was in severe shock.

She said the paramedics stayed to comfort him for 30 minutes, re-checked his bloodpressure reading, which was 157/90 by then.

She said they have been residents of Strandfontein for 36 years. “We are devastated, upset, furious, frustrated and are not handling this ordeal very well. Our feelings are that we are not protected by police. After 36 years living in Strandfontein, this is what’s becoming of our area.”

Ms Vember said the officers did not identify themselves, but she managed to get the registration numbers of the vehicles, who had Mitchell’s Plain and Durbanville marked on them.

She said she had laid a complaint at the Strandfontein police station which said they would investigate the claims.

Colonel Theodore Fisher of Durbanville police station said he found it strange that the Durbanville police were so far from their area at the time. “Mitchell’s Plain and Durbanville are not even in the same cluster,” he said.

However, he said that Operation Combat, a SAPS unit focusing on rooting out gangsterism and drugs, has a Durbanville police vehicle in their unit, so it could have been those officers who had conducted a raid.

Colonel Fisher said ideally, the police should get a warrant, but when receiving a tip-off, it is often better to react immediately, and getting a warrant takes time.

He said when police are in uniform and driving a marked vehicle, it is already a form of identity, but police should identify themselves.

He said the Durbanville police will investigate the Vember’s complaint.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesman, Lieutenant Ian Williams, confirmed that members of the South African Police Operation Combat Unit carried out a crime prevention duties on the night of the raid.

He said depending on the information received, the time of day and the possibility of evidence being thrown away or tampered with, the law allows the police to execute a search without a warrant.

He said the allegations against the police who conducted the raid is worrying, as the police did not identify themselves.

Lieutenant Williams said when police conduct a raid, the officers should knock at the residence, identify themselves and ask to do a search.

“If the person refuses entry, you can still proceed with entering the house within the constraints of the law.”

He said a case of malicious damage to property has been opened after a security gate was damaged during the search of the Vember house.

However, Ms Vember is still furious at the police for their conduct.

She said she is in the process of seeking legal advice. “We’re now traumatised … We are now living in fear as elderly people. We want to expose our (police) force,” she said.