Local karate and Mixed Martial Arts fundi, Henri Eksteen awoke to the sound of Police and members of the Limpopo Hawks using force to enter his residential premises during an operation last Tuesday to locate an alleged human trafficking syndicate, only to learn that they had stormed the wrong house and were supposed to crack down on his neighbours.
Not only was Eksteen traumatised by the aggressive approach, unlawful and forced entry by Police officers with their guns drawn, he also had to fix the remote-controlled gate which they allegedly damaged forcing their way in at his own expense and hasn’t received a single apology since.
“I demand at least an apology and will definitely lay a complaint with the Provincial Police Commissioner, Nneke Ledwaba. They forced open the main gate and if I had not opened the door fast enough they most probably would have broken it down as well,” Eksteen said.
The incident stems from an arrest of three Ethiopians Firew Tagese Hankoro, Desta Alemu Forsedo and Debede Abada on charges of human trafficking and the rescue mission of 15 Ethiopians, alleged human trafficking victims, at the corner of Jorissen and Oost streets.
Eksteen recalled the incident: “I fell asleep on the couch and was awakened by a noise, but I was so tired that I fell asleep again immediately. The next moment someone banged on the door and in a very aggressive tone demanded that the door be opened. They said it was the Police and when I opened the door they stormed in, pushing me out of the way so that I fell onto my work desk.”
There were about 11 officers in his house, all with their weapons drawn. Eksteen said he calmly questioned their modus operandi and requested a search warrant. “All they said was that they were looking for human trafficking victims. They avoided answering my question about the search warrant. One of the officers recognised me and all that came out was ‘Sorry, wrong house’ and they left making their way to the neighbours,” Eksteen said.
He applauded the Police for pinning down the suspects but their alleged ill-planned operation caused chaos for an innocent resident. “What if I had children who had to experience the whole ordeal? I am aggrieved by the event and the fact that no-one has come to apologise yet. They cannot just invade anyone’s privacy in that manner.”
Hawks Spokesperson Matimba Maluleke said the three suspects appeared in the Polokwane Magistrate’s Court last Thursday and will remain in custody until Monday for a bail application. The 15 persons rescued are aged between 16 and 30 and currently kept at a place of safety.
He was not able to comment on the incident at Eksteen’s residence and said he would first have to make the necessary enquiries from Police members who attended the scene.
Story & photo: RC Myburgh