I go into schools and prisons preaching that crime doesn't pay, and now people see me being arrested. They will take me for a gangster. These were the distraught words of pastor Matthews Mxolisi, who was dragged into a public spectacle on Friday morning when police mistakenly arrested him on a busy street in the CBD.
Mxolisi fears that the incident in one of the busiest areas of the city, not far from Pepper Grove mall, may have ruined his standing in the community.
After the incident Mxolisi came to the italGrocott's Mail/ital offices and told us his story.
Around 10.30am, at the corner of New Street and Scotts Avenue, police stopped Mxolisi's car and instructed him and his son to get out of the vehicle. He said that some of the cops pointed guns at him while telling him to lie on the ground before he was handcuffed. All the while, the Body of Christ Church pastor repeatedly asked why he was being arrested.
They had no reason to stop me, he said.
He said the police refused to tell him anything before another police van arrived, but mentioned that they were looking for a phone.
While Mxolisi waited and a small crowd gathered across the street to watch, a colleague of his wife saw him and he asked her to take a photograph as proof of how he was being treated. According to Mxolisi one of the policemen, whose name is known to italGrocott's Mail/ital, shouted at his wife's friend and threatened to break her cellphone, which she was using to take the photo.
When this reporter arrived at the scene and tried to take photographs, a policeman shouted aggressively and tried to chase her away. The police also searched Mxolisi's car and put his son, Asanda, in the back of their van.
More police arrived and a plainclothes officer had Mxolisi's handcuffs removed, but still insisted that he come to the police station, he said.
When the pastor arrived at the Beaufort Street station, he says, he was told, Sorry, we were told you had a firearm. After that, he said, the officer he spoke to wouldn't give him a straight answer about what had happened. All he was told, he said, was that the officers who had arrested him were from East London.
Mxolisi said the officer told him to return on Monday for an explanation, because many officers were out on duty ahead of the schools' march that morning.
So they take me to the station to just say sorry – but not in front of the people, he said. The pastor now fears that his reputation as a community leader might not recover after what members of the public saw.
Where do I go to? It's not right, he said