Jailed for ‘bag theft’

Nomgcobo Dalasile and her husband, Mthawelanga, in their home in Kossovo informal settlement. Ms Dalasile spent a night in the police holding cells after she was arrested for stealing municipal refuse bags, but was released without appearing in court the next day.

Nomgcobo Dalasile is crying foul and is still traumatised after she was allegedly arrested and spent a night in the police holding cells at Nyanga police station for “stealing” municipal bags.

The mother of three from Kosovo informal settlement, in Samora Machel, believes the arrest was part of a plan by her detractors to tarnish her image and to have some municipal employees fired. She was arrested on Tuesday November 1 and released the following day without appearing in court. “Yes I have been arrested before, for selling alcohol, but I never had my picture and fingerprints taken,” she said. “What has happened is beyond my imagination.”

The 40-year-old said she was arrested for “stealing” the blue rubbish municipal bags. She also accused the police of treating her like a hardened criminal. In an interview with Vukani at her house on Friday November 11 she accused some community leaders of orchestrating her downfall and the police of not properly doing their work.

Ms Dalasile said she found the bags hidden under a disposed ceiling board as she collected wood to start a fire to cook porridge for umqombothi.

“I had nothing to hide,” she said. Soon after getting to her house, she said a prominent member of the community came in search of the bags. Without any concerns, she admitted to be in possession of them. Ms Dalasile said the man demanded to know who sold the bags to her, and threatened her with arrest.

She said the man insisted that she must expose the employees who had given her the bags. After he tried tirelessly to convince her, she said the man eventually left. A few hours later, while out and about with her husband, Mthawelanga, she received a frantic call from the children asking her to return home. The man had returned with other people.

Ms Dalasile maintained what she had said before and soon afterwards, a police van arrived. She said she was bundled into the van, and taken on a “hell ride” to Nyanga police station.

“They first stopped with me at another house for about 20 minutes,” she said. “It was very hot on the day, and they had all the windows closed with plastic covers. When I complained, they ignored me. From there, they drove so recklessly to the station. My body was sore and it is still sore from that and, I think, from sleeping in the cell.”

After spending a night in the holding cells, she said, she was taken to court. After waiting in vain to appear before the magistrate, she was eventually allowed to go home. She is now demanding answers and an apology from the police over what she believes was an unlawful arrest.

Street committee member Bathathu Cebisile believed the case had been orchestrated by someone who had a score to settle. “It is our firm belief that proper investigation was not done in this case,” he said, adding that a number of people who cleaned streets in the area had, as a result, been fired from their jobs. “We would love for a proper investigation to be conducted and for those people to be re-instated to their positions,” he said.

Nyanga police station commander Brigadier Vuyisile Ncata said the release did not mean Ms Dalasile was off the hook. Instead, he said, the charges had been “provisionally withdrawn” while police conduct further investigations.

“Once all the statements have been obtained, the charges will be re-instated,” he said, adding that Ms Dalasile had appeared at the Fezeka Court.

Ms Dalasile, however, vehemently denied this.

University of Cape Town’s Law faculty advised Ms Dalasile to lay charges with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate if she felt her rights had been violated by the police (IPID).