‘There was no need for handcuffs’: traumatised atchar seller says outside court

'There was no need for handcuffs': traumatised atchar seller says outside court

“I was traumatised. They treated me as if I had killed someone.”

These were the words of 53-year-old Thandi Thabethe, who was arrested on Thursday for selling atchar without a permit in Soweto.

Thabethe was arrested during an intensive lockdown operation by police and soldiers.

She was released on warning on Thursday evening after being charged with contravening the Disaster Management Act.

Her arrest was captured on video and struck a chord with many South Africans, including social media influencer and lawyer Tumi Sole, who was one of those who offered to help her.

Speaking to TimesLIVE outside the Roodepoort magistrate’s court, where she was due to appear on Friday, Thabethe described the incident as “traumatic”.

“I was not resisting arrest. I knew I was in the wrong because I did not have a permit. I was not fighting them [police] when they put me inside the van.

“The only issue I had was being treated like I had killed someone. There was no need for the handcuffs. I tried to explain, but they did not want to hear my side of the story,” Thabethe said.

“I am very grateful for the help from the gentleman [Sole]. I don’t know how they got hold of me. They went to the police station and said they were looking for a woman who is selling atchar.

“I did not know them. They asked me what happened and I relayed my story. They told me they would help me with money to keep me going until the lockdown is over,” Thabethe said.

She said she hopes to secure a permit because she is the breadwinner at home and cares for two children.

“My children do not work. I am a single parent. With the little I make from selling atchar and fried fish, I am able to buy maize meal and bread.”

Since the lockdown started, Thabethe said she was making between R150 and R200 a day.

Her legal representative, Nthabiseng Dubazana, said the case was not placed on the court roll on Friday.

“One of two things happened: the matter was withdrawn when it got to the desk of the senior public prosecutor, or they will send a subpoena later when this lockdown is over.

“Once she receives her subpoena we can proceed by going to court, or she may never get to come to court at all,” said Dubazana.

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