Police Confrontation with Workshop Central Market Traders on 26 January 2011 [Durban, South Africa]

On 27 January 2011, Asiye eTafuleni was alerted through local newspapers, [download id=”4″] and the [download id=”5″], about a violent scuffle between South African Police Service (SAPS) officials and traders on the 26th of January at the site from which they operate, in the central markets of the Workshop Shopping Centre.

The chairperson of the traders from the Workshop Central Market affirmed that the reason that some traders eventually violently confronted the SAPS officials was as a result of their frustration with recent raids by them where neither custom officials have been present, nor have receipts been given for the confiscated goods. What reportedly fuelled suspicion amongst some traders was the presence of a man that accompanied the police officials during the raids, identified to them as an agent of Nike. However, he returned with the police on a different occasion to then confiscate Adidas goods. After an internal investigation by the traders, they reportedly discovered that this man is a shop owner in uMngeni Road. This has led them to believe that the police officials have been conspiring to confiscate the goods for their own personal gain.

Furthermore, as per the [download id=”6″], the two traders that violently resisted the confiscation of their goods on the 26th of January were arrested. It was expected that the police officials were in the process of pressing charges against them. However, pictures of the scuffle and bullet shells taken by the traders to the press served as evidence that the police officials had manhandled and accosted some of the traders. This exposure of the evidence in the newspapers on Thursday, 27th of January, reportedly led to the release of the two traders the next day without any charges being pressed against them. This was also because of additional incriminating evidence as reported by two informed sources, which determined that it is unknown as to which unit the SAPS officials where attached and from whom they had received their instructions. With mounting evidence in the hands of the traders, it is considered that they have sufficient grounds to initiate an official enquiry into the incident.

What is encouraging to see is that the group of traders were able to take action against the illicit actions, informed by a knowledge of legal processes and their rights around confiscation of their goods. As, one trader commented in [download id=”7″]: “We understand when customs comes and confiscates the merchandise because some of it is counterfeit, and we do not put up and fight.” Moreover, on the controversial issue of the selling of counterfeit goods, the chairperson of the traders commented that there is certainly evidence of counterfeit goods elsewhere in the city, even in some instances retailed by formal businesses, yet there appears to be limited action taken against them; leaving the traders to believe that they are being targeted in this regard.

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