Witbank Brigadier gives orders for the abuse of sex workers

Brigadier Delisewa Motha from the Klipfontein Police Station in Witbank, Mpumalanga enforces unlawful raids against sex workers.

Sex workers in the Witbank area have reached out to Sex Workers Education and Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), Women’s Legal Centre (WLC) and Re-Action! to complain about the gross abuse they experience at the hands of police officers at the Klipfontein police station. On the 31st of August 2016, police officers raided 4 homes in Witbank which is believed to be used by sex workers as brothels.

The police officers assaulted the residents, vandalised their property and arrested 16 women and a security guard. One home owner was also arrested when he went to the police station to enquire about the people arrested.

According to sex workers in Witbank the situation has been escalating since May this year. Abuses committed by the police include unwarranted raids, physical assaults, unlawful arrests, detention and refusal of chronic medication as well as damage to property. Efforts by NGO’s to address the abuse of power on the part of police has only resulted in escalating the violence. “Often, when we draw attention to the abuse of power by police, we see a backlash and increased police action – these events is a clear example of this” says Sally Shackleton, Executive Director of SWEAT.

One woman reported that the police officers ordered her to strip naked and walk around a taxi rank close by. Another alleged that the police entered her home, pepper sprayed her children and told them that their mother is a sex worker. Mosima Kekana, Attorney at WLC said “she was very distraught, and as an attorney I was shocked at the violence we are hearing about”.

Attorney Rahlagane, hired by WLC to assist those held in custody, was also harassed by the police when he went to enquire about his clients. The officers raided his car “looking for condoms” and threatened to call his wife should they find condoms in his car. Brigadier Motha, the policeman giving orders for the raids to be carried out, told the attorney that he had better get a place close by as she will be “cleaning up the streets”.

As a coalition of organisations working in health and rights, we are extremely concerned about the gross human rights violations that are being committed by the police. These abuses are frequent and escalating with officers being complicit in the terrorising of these community members. An official complaint has been lodged with the South African Police Service. Sharon White, Director of Re-Action! said “a huge consequence of this type of police brutality against sex workers causes additional obstacles to accessing chronic medication and healthcare services that they need, ultimately affecting care, treatment and adherence”.

We are calling on the Police Services to end their abuse against sex workers and to engage with NGOs and work collaboratively.

Help Line: 0800 606060

For media comments:

Nosipho Vidima, Human Rights and Lobbying Officer at SWEAT

Cell: 076 782 0812


Mosima Kekana, Attorney at Women’s Legal Centre

Cell: 078 592 7294


Sharon White, Director at Re-Action!

Cell: 082 414 3730




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