Another person has fallen victim to a Pretoria gang targeting gay men through dating apps and websites.
The 34-year-old man, who we have named Paul, has asked to not be identified. He recently recounted his harrowing experience to Mambaonline.
On 21 March, Paul met a man, “Martin”, through a profile on the Manhunt dating site. They agreed to meet and Paul drove to a house in Lynnwood, Pretoria.
“It was raining and dark and it was situated inside a residential area,” said Paul. He went into the house and met with a 40-something male, who he assumed to be Martin. Paul was shocked, however, when four other men wearing hoodies unexpectedly walked into the room and threatened him with a gun. At this point “Martin” left the room and was not seen again by Paul.
The men took Paul’s keys and smartphone. Matters then escalated when the individuals forced him into a vehicle parked outside at gunpoint and drove him to an apartment block in Sunnyside.
Terrified, he was taken to a flat on the 6th floor, in which a number of people appeared to be living, including a woman and children. He was ordered into a dark room and forced to undress. “They held a gun to my head, going through my backpack, asking for the pin codes of my cards and access code to my phone,” said Paul.
After he gave them the information, one of the men left with his bank cards. He was also forced to make ‘e-Wallet’ transfers to a cellphone number. “They said if I lied they would shoot me,” explained Paul.
Then, another man, who was especially aggressive, came into the room and told Paul to dress and to take his backpack. Paul was returned to his vehicle and, after being threatened with being killed if he spoke to anyone about the incident, was allowed to drive off.
In total, Paul was robbed of R20,000 worth of personal items, including jewelery and his cellphone, as well as over R9,000 in cash, which was transferred from his accounts. Far worse, however, has been the trauma that followed the experience.
“I am the victim here”
Paul filed a case with the Sunnyside Police, but that has only added to his ordeal. He claims that the police have shown little interest in investigating the case.
“The police treated me as a criminal or suspect with absolutely no empathy of the situation,” said Paul. “I am the victim here, I was the one held at gunpoint. It was traumatic to go to the police as I fear that the criminals might find me again. Considering all this, some empathy would have been very much appreciated, but the way they have treated me thus far only caused me to lose faith in the SAPS and make me feel hopeless.
“They are supposed to protect us not treat us like suspects when were reporting a crime. It’s really unfair and it feels like a disregard of my rights as a South African Citizen,” he added.
As he used the GPS on his now-stolen phone to get to the house in Lynnwood, Paul is unable to confirm the location. One officer said to him that he must have been inebriated because he cannot remember the address. Paul was then told that he had not provided enough information for the police to investigate further.
“What is truly upsetting is that the police, even though they have all the particulars of the crime in terms of the ATM transactions, location of where the crime took place, location where my phone was last found, refuse to investigate and assist as the first address where I was taken from, which I wasn’t even at for five minutes, is unknown.”
Paul continues to live with stress and anxiety. “The assailants took all my personal information and as such I am too scared to stay at my home fearing that they may come after me. They said that if I talk to anyone they will kill me.”
Paul has now lodged a complaint with IPID and the Police Commissioner about his treatment by the police in the hope that some action will be taken. “I am trying my best to deal with this traumatic event and will be going for counseling, but talking about this ordeal is still very distressing,” he said.
Paul’s case is similar to others we have reported, with seemingly little being done to track down the offenders. Most recently, also in March this year, a 28-year-old Johannesburg man was lured to a flat in Sunnyside and was forced by four men to strip and surrender his possessions and banking details.
In April and November last year, Mambaonline reported the stories of two men who had similar experiences in Sunnyside, one which turned violent, after arranging to meet dates through the Manhunt and PlanetRomeo sites.
The police have warned people “who use the internet to seek any form of companionship” to exercise caution before they proceed with meeting strangers. “They must inform someone about who they intend to meet and where. Such meetings must take place in a public place,” said police spokesperson Captain Daniel Mavimbela.
Mambaonline has requested an update from the Sunnyside Police on at least two of these cases and is awaiting a response.
If you have experienced a similar incident, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org (we will maintain your anonymity if requested). You can also report an incident anonymously on the LGBT hate crime reporting site www.report.lovenothate.org.za.
For tips to help make online dating safer, click here.