Forum member arrested

Neighbourhood watches and CPF members outside of the police station on Sunday October 20.

A community crime fighter who claims to have been manhandled by police and who was arrested on charges of assaulting a police officer, says she no longer feels she can work with the police.

Charmaine Marhota, 46, the chair of Tafelsig West community police sub-forum (a sub-forum of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF) and her son, Marshilino Reiners, 25, who have both since been released, were arrested at the police base camp in Tafelsig on Saturday October 19, for allegedly having assaulted a police officer.

The base camp had previously been used as a launching pad and base camp for Operation Thunder, through which specialised police units were brought in to fight crime in the Western Cape.

In response to the arrest, members of Tafelsig West CPF sub-forum, Duneside Block Watch, and residents camped outside Mitchell’s Plain SAPS police station, waiting for Ms Marhota and Marshilino’s release – which eventually took place around 3pm on Sunday October 20.

They are due to appear in Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday November 26.

Provincial police spokesperson, Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, confirmed Marshilino and Ms Marhota had been arrested and that the police officer had laid charges of assault and crimen injuria against the sub-forum.

Members of the Tafelsig West CPF sub-forum had subsequently laid counter charges against the police officer, she added. These cases are under investigation.

Sergeant Jerome Voegt, spokesperson for Mitchell’s Plain police, said while he was not in a position to comment, he could confirm that the accused had opened a criminal case which had been forwarded to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) for investigation.

Recalling what had led to her arrest, Ms Marhota told the Plainsman she had taken a boy, caught throwing stones, to the police base camp where she found the lights out and a police officer who had fallen asleep while watching a movie on his laptop. When she woke him and told him about the boy she had apprehended, she said, the officer told her that he could not hold the boy. With her, she said, were 11 members of the sub-forum and neighbourhood watch as well as her two sons, Marshilino and Keanu Reiners, 18, and her husband, Keith Marhota, 51.

Ms Marhota claimed that when the officer swore at her, Keanu intervened and the officer smacked him in the face twice. She said when the officer grabbed Keanu, she took a picture of him, after which he took her phone from her and put it in his pocket. When Ms Marhota tried to retrieve her phone, she said, the officer pulled out his gun and cocked it.

The officer, who by this time had called for back-up, allegedly grabbed Ms Marhota and choked her and then threw her and her son into the back of a police van before pepper-spraying them.

She also accused police of smacking Marshilino.

“The four men mishandled me,” she said.

“After they threw me into the van, only then did they realise I was a woman. They pulled me by the feet and I kicked the officer, and they pepper-sprayed me. I worked with one of them who mistreated me,” said Ms Marhota.

“We are the eyes and the ears for SAPS in the community. After this ordeal I don’t think we want to work for them anymore. I am very passionate about serving my community (but) we will not be patrolling until our court appearance. It is disgusting the way they treated me. An injury to one is an injury to all,” she said.

Lynn Phillips, secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF, said they treated Ms Marhota in an undignified manner.

“What is SAPS telling us in relation to domestic violence, if their own members are perpetrators? We cannot accept this.”

Chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF, Abie Isaacs said the CPF was demanding the closure of the base camp.

“Our member was arrested and the SAPS member was not. We believe we are in a working relationship with police. Ms Marhota was not a flight risk, or a danger to society, she could have been released on this premise alone,” said Mr Isaacs.