Five days in custody for being mistaken for ‘Ethiopians’

Staff Writer | Aug 18, 2019
Two South African women were wrongly arrested during an anti-counterfeit goods raid because they were suspected of being foreign nationals.

Siblings Emmarangia and Zula Adaama found themselves among hundreds of foreign nationals rounded up during the police operation in central Johannesburg on Wednesday 7 August. 

They spent five days in custody at Johannesburg Central Police Station with other detainees. 

The sisters, who have a Zulu mother and a Scottish father, said they were assumed to be ‘Ethiopian’, according to reports. 

They told the media that they were out having breakfast in Delvas Street, not far from where the live, when between 30 and 40 police officers appeared. The sisters were ordered to stand in a line and produce their identity documents.

‘Because we were just there to eat, we obviously did not have the documents with us,’ said Emmarangia.

She said they were taken to the police station where their fingerprints taken. While there, they overheard police officers say that they looked and smelled like Ethiopians.

Despite Emmarangia’s fingerprints establishing her identity as a South African, the police insisted that she was of mixed descent and that she must explain how she got her identification document. 

A neighbour brought the sisters' identity documents to the police station on the same day, but the police refused to release the pair. They were held in a cell with 36 other women.

The sisters charged that the state of the cell was ‘unbearable’  and that their treatment at the hands of the police was 'unkind’.


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