Wil­der­ness fa­mi­ly trau­ma­ti­sed by al­le­ged po­li­ce bru­ta­li­ty

George Herald - - News - K­ris­ty Kol­berg War­rant er­ror

"I've ne­ver been that sca­red in my li­fe. I was so sca­red for my child­ren and my dog that I li­te­ral­ly peed my­self." The­se we­re the words of a mot­her of three from Wil­der­ness who was re­cent­ly trau­ma­ti­sed at the hand of al­le­ged po­li­ce bru­ta­li­ty. Ac­cor­ding to Jen S­tiehler, po­li­ce of­fi­cers burst in­to her ho­me at ap­prox­i­ma­te­ly 17:00 on T­hurs­day 11 Oc­to­ber, look­ing for tik, man­drax, il­le­gal fi­re­arms and dag­ga. "I was in my kit­chen with my three young child­ren w­hen I saw ar­med men in po­li­ce u­ni­forms ma­king their way to my front door. T­hey knoc­ked and I o­pe­ned, but S­hadow star­ted to gro­wl and bark. T­hey in­sis­ted on co­ming in and or­de­red me to put my dog a­way. I clo­sed the door and whi­le ta­king my child­ren and my dog to sa­fe­ty, t­hey en­te­red through the front and the back doors," she said.

Raid

Ni­ne ar­med po­li­ce­men al­le­ge­d­ly for­ced their way in­to S­tiehler's ho­me and star­ted to raid her hou­se wit­hout i­den­ti­fying them­sel­ves or i­ni­ti­al­ly pro­du­cing a war­rant.

"W­hen I as­ked them for i­den­ti­fi­ca­ti­on and a war­rant t­hey laug­hed at me. T­hen I re­al­ly felt sca­red for my ba­bies and S­hadow. I took my child­ren in­to the bathroom and swit­ched on my vi­deo ca­me­ra on my cel­lp­ho­ne to re­cord the in­tru­si­on. All the whi­le t­hey we­re scre­a­ming at me and de­man­ding my pho­ne. I was stan­ding in the pas­sa­ge and my blad­der just couldn't hold a­ny­mo­re. It was de­gra­ding and hu­mi­li­a­ting."

'We can do w­hat we want to'

S­tiehler said throug­hout the or­de­al she re­pe­a­ted­ly he­ard them say, "We can do w­hat we want and you can't stop us."

"I was trem­bling so much I st­rug­gled to use my pho­ne to call my hus­band, who was in Sed­ge­field at the ti­me," she said. T­hey t­hen al­le­ge­d­ly for­ced her to hand o­ver her pho­ne. "I was in the bathroom for a­bout half an hour wai­ting for E­rik [Vor­ster] whi­le t­hey we­re wal­king a­round in the hou­se."

"T­hey e­ven­tu­al­ly ga­ve me the war­rant to re­ad." This is w­hen S­tiehler re­a­li­sed that the po­li­ce had ma­de a mis­ta­ke. "The ad­dress on the war­rant was wrong. So was my hus­band's na­me. He is E­rik Vor­ster, not E­ric Mu­el­ler as the war­rant sta­ted." On his ar­ri­val E­rik pro­du­ced his ID. "On the war­rant it al­so said that t­hey we­re look­ing for man­drax, tik, il­le­gal fi­re­arms and dag­ga. Bar­ring the dag­ga, we don't ha­ve any of that in our hou­se," Vor­ster told the Ge­or­ge He­rald. "Yes, we ha­ve dag­ga for per­so­nal use and now it's le­gal. I ha­ve a cou­ple of plants gro­wing in the gar­den. That e­ve­ning t­hey ar­res­ted me for 177g of dry can­na­bis in my pos­ses­si­on and char­ged me with de­a­ling," he said.

Po­li­ce ha­ving a jol­ly ti­me

Ac­cor­ding to Vor­ster the po­li­ce spent the next two hours af­ter the raid "chil­ling" at their hou­se whi­le so­me of them wa­t­ched mo­vies with the child­ren. "It was cra­zy to see this. T­hey sat he­re for a­bout two hours as if no­thing had hap­pe­ned. As if we we­re friends. The in­ci­dent vi­o­la­ted our hu­man rig­hts on so ma­ny le­vels," a flab­ber­gas­ted Vor­ster said.

Ar­rest

Vor­ster was ta­ken to the Ge­or­ge po­li­ce sta­ti­on w­he­re he was ar­res­ted on a char­ge of de­a­ling in dag­ga. He was re­le­a­sed that e­ve­ning. On Tu­es­day he ap­pea­red in the Ge­or­ge Ma­gi­stra­te's Court, w­he­re the ca­se was tem­po­ra­ri­ly ta­ken off the roll pen­ding furt­her in­ves­ti­ga­ti­on.

"The po­li­ce sho­wed no pro­ce­du­re du­ring the o­pe­ra­ti­on. T­hey cre­a­ted as much cha­os and pa­nic as pos­si­ble and I feel sad that t­hey had to put a wo­man, a ba­by and two young child­ren through this kind of un­ne­ces­sa­ry or­de­al. Their 'mis­ta­ke' has broug­ht harm to child­ren and that is u­naccep­ta­ble," he said.

The po­li­ce we­re con­tacted for com­ment and in­di­ca­ted that t­hey will re­spond in due cour­se.

In Sep­tem­ber this y­e­ar South A­fri­ca's Con­sti­tu­ti­o­nal Court pas­sed do­wn jud­ge­ment that ma­kes it le­gal for a­dults to cul­ti­va­te and smo­ke ma­ri­ju­a­na in their ho­mes.

The court ru­led that the rig­ht to pri­va­cy was vi­o­la­ted by pro­hi­bi­ting the pos­ses­si­on, pur­cha­se, or cul­ti­va­ti­on of can­na­bis for per­so­nal con­sump­ti­on by an a­dult in a pri­va­te dwel­ling.

The re­le­vant le­gal pro­vi­si­ons that cri­mi­na­li­se per­so­nal, pri­va­te use of dag­ga by a­dults we­re de­cla­red un­con­sti­tu­ti­o­nal and in­va­lid. That or­der was sus­pen­ded for 24 mont­hs. In the in­te­rim, the court ru­led that a­dults who use, pos­sess, or cul­ti­va­te can­na­bis in pri­va­te for their own per­so­nal con­sump­ti­on are not guil­ty of con­tra­ve­ning the­se pro­vi­si­ons. The per­so­nal con­sump­ti­on ex­cep­ti­on has been wi­de­ly ce­le­bra­ted. But it rai­ses va­ri­ous practi­cal dif­fi­cul­ties.

Ac­cor­ding to the Con­sti­tu­ti­o­nal Court, po­li­ce of­fi­cers will ha­ve to as­sess e­ach ca­se on its own me­rits. To do so, t­hey'll need to con­si­der fac­tors such as the quan­ti­ty of can­na­bis in the per­son's pos­ses­si­on and w­het­her t­hey can gi­ve a sa­tis­fac­to­ry ac­count of their pos­ses­si­on.

E­rik Vor­ster with his wi­fe Jen S­tiehler and four-mont­hs-old ba­by. P­ho­to: K­ris­ty Kol­berg

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