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A woman was taking selfies on a Sea Point bench. She was arrested and locked in a cell overnight

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The “vehicle-breaking” equipment in Esethu Mcinjana’s handbag was a gate remote

Photo from video of police officer
Sergeant Smith (first name unknown) searches the bag of Esethu Mcinjana.
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A 23-year-old Blue Downs woman is considering suing the police after being arrested while sitting on a bench in Sea Point and then being locked in a cell for the night.

Esethu Mcinjana was in Sea Point on Sunday 19 May for a job interview at a hotel at 10:45am. She arrived early for the interview and went to sit on a bench on the promenade to wait.

“I pressed the buzzer when I arrived but no one responded so I went to sit on a bench overlooking the beach.”

She said she was taking selfies at about 9:20am when she was approached by a police officer who asked her what she was doing there.

“Her tone was aggressive. I explained to her that I was there for an interview but was early. She didn’t believe me and said there are no interviews on a Sunday.”

“She grabbed my bag and started searching it, throwing my things on the ground. My CV, a few of my toiletries and my house keys were in the bag,” said Mcinjana.

She took a video which clearly shows the police officers who were searching her bag, a Sergeant Smith and Constable Prince.

Esethu Mcinjana shot this video while her bag was being searched by Sergeant Smith and Constable Prince.

She says Smith found her house keys with a gate remote switch in the bag. Smith is heard saying in Afrikaans on the video, “I found what I need to.”

Mcinjana said she was accused of being a robber. “She said I used the remote to rob people’s cars. I tried to explain that the remote wasn’t even working but I was using it as a key holder.”

Smith called a police van on her radio, took Mcinjana’s phone and made her get into the van. She said she was taken to Sea Point police station, handcuffed and shouted at by Smith, photographed and fingerprinted and then put into a cell.

“I tried to show the police officer the email that shows I was there for an interview but she didn’t listen to me. She just put me in a holding cell,” said Mcinjana.

She says she was only given her phone at 4pm to tell her mother where she was.

She was told she was a suspect in car break-ins. The police still have her gate remote and keys.

Mcinjana said some of the officers at the station told her that the way she was being treated was wrong.

Not only did Esethu Mcinjana spend Sunday night in a police cell, she missed her job interview and a chance at employment. Photo: Ella Ndongeni

Her mother, Margaret Mcinjana, told GroundUp when she called the police station she was told it was too late to see her daughter that day and she must come in the morning.

“When I went the next morning I was only given three minutes to speak to her,” said Margaret.

“My daughter left home for a job interview but ended up in jail. For what? She has never done anything wrong. She was looking forward to that interview.”

Margaret confirmed to police that the remote switch they had taken from her daughter’s bag no longer worked and was just used as a keyring.

Sea Point SAPS spokesperson, Captain Elizabeth Munro, said Mcinjana had been found to be in possession of “vehicle breaking” implements.

However, Munro said, there were “no prospects of successful prosecution as discussed with the senior prosecutor”.

Mcinjana says she is consulting lawyers and also intends to approach the Human Rights Commission.

“I feel violated and angry. Someone I expected would protect me, a police officer, treated me in that way and ignored my rights. I spent a night in a holding cell. For what?”

Mcinjana said she was released at 3pm on Monday. She said she was too embarrassed to get in touch with the hotel people who were expecting her for the interview.


Update: 24 May, 12:50pm

1. Mcinjana has legal assistance.

2. Before publishing we had email correspondence, confirming that Mcinjana had an appointment with the hotel. (Some people on Twitter asked about this.)

3. New: The hotel — which has been helpful and we will not be naming — confirmed to the police on Sunday that Mcinjana had an appointment for an interview. Yet she was still kept in a cell overnight.

Our attempt to get further comment from the Sea Point Police Police Station on Friday morning resulted in being transferred about ten times before the line dropped.

The Western Cape Police Ombudsman was unaware of the case and has asked for Mcinjana to lodge a complaint.

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TOPICS:  Human Rights Policing

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Write a letter in response to this article

Letters

Dear Editor

Police in this country desperately need to be told their place. They deserve our respect but then have no clue what the law is and run amuck. This officer should be stripped of her rank and put in jail for violating the public's trust.

Dear Editor

Police of this Western Cape treat people like they have no rights. They harass people even more than a pick pocketer, we no longer feel safe when we see SA police officers.
I hate them all. They do not do their job, they only flaunt their useless blue uniform and don't respect their jobs and people's rights. They only become police officers for the sake of occupation...They should pay for what they put Esethu Mcinjana through.

Dear Editor

To the police officers who mistakenly thought this woman was doing something wrong. Could I suggest they visit the person who she was supposed to see for an interview explain the situation and apologise. Which will possibly lead to a 2nd chance interview. This story really moved me as I know how hard it is to get an opportunity to work for a lot of people with our country's crazy high unemployment rate. This was more than a mistaken identity it had far reaching consequences.

Dear Editor

Those that frequent the promenade will know how busy it is on a Sunday morning. People from all walks of life come there, especially when the weather is good. It is thus nothing unusual for people to sit on the benches and take pictures. Even I have done this many times. So what made Esethu different from all the other hundreds of people on the promenade. My guess is nothing. She was on her way to a job interview and time to waste. What better way to pass the time and take a selfie and watch the passing crowds.

What did the cops see. Again my guess is nothing much. Just a black woman, sitting on a bench taking pictures. Based on that they chose to “investigate” further. Esethu had documentation with her to prove why she was there. Based on what little they saw they made the call to search, arrest and detain her. The only “evidence” they found “suspicious” was a remote with a key. This they believed was a jamming device.

This is the danger of profiling. The cops had nothing substantive to go on. Yet because she was black, a woman and seemingly in the wrong place at the wrong time they chose to exert their authority and act. The thought of giving Esethu the benefit of the doubt probably never entered their minds. Checking the facts didn’t even come into their heads. To make matters worse they were two colored cops doing what they thought was right. Even worse, it was a woman doing it to another woman.

They obviously never heard of “don’t judge a book” and “check the facts” before acting. They effectively destroyed Esethu’s chances of getting that job. There “diligence” cost her what could have been a life changing opportunity. Clearly they were wrong in their assessment of Esethu. They must be held to account for this, if for nothing else.

Dear Editor

I was taking food out of my car to eat while waiting on my wife who was at the hairdresser. The police came and harrased me. Captain Swartz and sergeant Prince damaged my vehicle. When i wanted to lay a complaint at Sea Point police station, the two cops were there and threatened to lock me up if i came with these false statements against them.

I had to open a case at Cape Town police station in order to avoid arrest. CAS 158/08/2018. The investigating officer informed me that it was going to have to be a civil case. I did my math and for me to travel to Cape Town every time and hire a lawyer would cost me alot more than fixing the damage they caused out of own expense.

Dear Editor

The police should be considerate when invading a person's privacy. On the other hand, the prevention of crime is a risky endeavour for any SAPS member. I bet that the two officers did not start off their day by saying "today we are going to harass innocent people" all they wanted was to prevent crime at Sea Point.

They were probably briefed by their commander to look for suspicious people with car remote jammers. We the community should be more supportive of your local Police. If you discourage them now by crucifying them for every misstep, they will lose courage and crime will soar.

Dear Editor

As much as we want to value the hard and dangerous work that's done by the police, we cannot stand by and watch police brutality and inhumanely treat people go unchallenged. May those in charge really take charge and help stop bad police from escalating into uncontrollable abuse of power.