JMPD to head to court over police brutality billboards

The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department is expected to head to court over billboards erected on the M1, M2 and N17.

Billboard depicting police brutality

Supplied by JMPD

The Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) is expected to lodge an urgent court application for the removal of Unity Fellowship Church billboards that reflect police brutality on the M1, M2 and N17.

In a statement, JMPD spokesperson Superintendent Wayne Minnaar set out the history between it and the church.

“[The] JMPD attended continuous complaints regarding loud noise at Unity Fellowship Church in Midway Soweto in 2014,” he said.

He added that by early 2015, the JMPD impounded chairs from the church due to consistent complaints about loud noise. A court ruled in the JMPD’s favour.

READ | JMPD security officer killed, robbed while out on patrol in Soweto

The following year, the church approached Parliament for support and in 2017, a parliamentary oversight committee was sent to inspect the church.

“The oversight committee, together with JMPD officers, was again prevented from entering the church building.”

In an operation at the church last year, Minnaar added, officers found more than two thousand people in the confined space.

“[The] JMPD arrested senior members of this church, including the pastor, for contravention of Covid-19 regulations. Officers also confiscated a sound system,” he said.

Unity Fellowship Church spokesperson Moafrika Wa Maila told News24 that the JMPD was trying to silence the church by approaching the court.

“If those pictures are not true, let them prove to the court how we got those picture,” he said.

Wa Maila alleged that on 28 February 2021, JMPD officers barged into the church, “carrying guns”, and started shooting at the congregants.

“Close to 800 people were injured during the incident because the JMPD was not willing to negotiate.”

The church added that it was very disappointed in the South African government for not intervening when they turned to it for help.

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