Mozambique Consul Arthur Verissimo has lodged a complaint with the Mpumalanga provincial police commissioner’s office after a Mozambican vendor lost her thumb during heavy-handed police interrogation.
Verissimo, who represents Mozambique’s consulate in Mpumalanga and Limpopo, met with acting provincial police commissioner Major-General Thulani Phahla on Thursday.
Verissimo complained that Mpumalanga police had acted slowly after Juvenal Mabaso, 39, laid a charge against a policeman following her injury on February 3.
“The Mozambican government is not happy about the way the [Mpumalanga] police have been running the case so far. The person whose finger was severed is no longer able to sew braids and feed her children,” Verissimo told African Eye News Service after his meeting with Phahla.
He couldn’t understand why Mabaso had been harassed for making and selling hair extensions at the Lebombo border gate in Komatipoort, as she had all the necessary paperwork.
Verissimo said he learnt from Phahla that the Independents Complaints Directorate (ICD), which investigates cases against cops, was already investigating the case.
The ICD only got involved after reading the story in a newspaper, however.
“As the Mozambican government we are concerned about this case and we believe the victim is not being taken seriously because she’s a Mozambican and has no money to pursue the matter,” said Verissimo.
He said there were many cases involving inappropriate police behaviour against Mozambicans in South Africa, especially at the Lebombo border.
On Friday, Phahla confirmed the meeting, but declined to go into detail.
“The case is with the ICD, there will be an internal hearing to find out exactly what happened,” said Phahla.
Phahla did could not say when the hearing would be held or whether the policeman had been suspended or not.
According to Mabaso, who was in the country with Verissimo on Thursday, she had just walked through the South African side of the border on February 3 when the policeman stopped her and searched her bag.
“I still don’t understand why the policeman hurt me like that. He took my passport and then took me to a room where two other police officers were sitting. He took a hair braid, tied it around my thumb and twisted it until the skin tore and my thumb broke,” she said.
She said the two other officers laughed while she screamed in pain.
“Only when my thumb broke did the policeman stop what he was doing. I was screaming in pain and eventually his superior came and organised an ambulance to take me to Tonga hospital,” Mabaso said.
Doctors at the hospital were unable to save her thumb and had to amputate it.