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Rochester relives arrest ordeal

Business

Chris Theko

Popular disc jockey and record producer Rethabile ‘Dj Rochester’ Lekometsa has finally broken the silence about his incarceration stint in South Africa last year, a feat which he says has had people wagging tongues at and giving him looks.

Dj Rochester spent no less than four months languishing in a police holding cell in Klerksdorp in the North West province following his June 2021 arrest.

Speaking for the first time about the ordeal in an exclusive interview with Newsday Arts this week, Dj Rochester described the arrest as an unfortunate situation of mistaken identity and misunderstanding between him and police.

“I was in South Africa at the time when I was stopped by the police and issued with a R1500 fine because of an expired registration license disc which meant I had to come back home to get that sorted out,” Rochester said, adding that he was in that country in a move to secure some deals to heighten his career. 

He said when he had later gotten the disc renewal sorted and sufficient money raised, he had decided to go back to SA to sort the lingering fine issue, more so to see if he could secure some gigs.  

“I went back to SA on the 2nd of June after realizing that I did have the money to pay for the fine, and also because in my mind I believed it was easier to get gigs in SA than here at home,” he said. 

The Skupu hit-maker had recently lost his phone and said he was struggling to find the police station for settling the fine hence he asked for directions from one of the people close by who he thought was a security guard.

On that day the lockdown curfew time of 21:00-04:00 had just been announced and coming into effect.  

“We did not get off on the right footing with the person I asked for directions from because I feel like he mistook me for a robber disguised as a lost person. While we were struggling with understanding each other, the police who looked like were on patrol in the area arrived.

“They also could not get where I was coming from due to communication barriers. The police barely gave me a chance to explain what had just happened because now the person I thought was a security guard had left.

“They were Afrikaans speaking police officers so I could not understand them and vice versa which led to them being angry. They just approached the car; one of them hit me heavily with the gun so when I looked on the other side one had opened the door of my car and sprayed me with a pepper spray. 

“They also tried to take out the key from the ignition but I quickly hit the accelerator and decided to escape because I did not see any other way out,” Rochester explained. 

The deejay said the decision was impromptu as means to try and see if the situation would come down hence he did not completely disappear from the scene.

He explained that after fleeing the scene, a few minutes later he came back with the hope that the situation had improved. He also said he wanted to not be labeled a fugitive. 

“When I returned I released that the number of the police officers in that place had increased although they did not chase me.

“While I was trying to gradually approach them I heard gunshots, about four of them and realized they had shot down my car tyres hence had to stop. This is when they got to me and pepper sprayed me again, hit me, pinned me to the floor and handcuffed me,” he explained.  

Rochester stated he was still reeling with shock and confusion of why he was being arrested because not one of the officers explained anything to him but just merely took away.

He said upon arrival at the police station he was told that he was charged with attempted murder for driving while one police officer was attempting to get into the car, reckless driving, and resisting arrest. 

He said even then, he thought he would just be in-and-out of the holding cells in no time but to his surprise he saw days pass without him getting even medical attention despite his bruises and injuries from the beating he got from the police.

“When I requested a lawyer I was refused one but instead received more torture as I was forced to sign a document I did not understand. From what I saw when I requested a lawyer it was like I made things worse.

“I was beaten badly by the very police I thought were meant to protect and serve, to a point that I was even beginning to have suicidal thoughts as I felt alone and desolate,” he said. 

A few days later he was taken to court for a bail hearing but was denied bail due to not having a passport and being a foreigner.

His case was then temporarily withdrawn due to the absence of other documents which were said to be missing from his docket.

During the time he was in prison, he made five court appearances, three of which was when he was seeking a bailing through the assistance of a state-appointed lawyer. 

He appeared in court for the last time on November 12, 2021 at the Klerksdorp Magistrate court where the case was dismissed.

He said he is still recovering from the ordeal and that readjusting back into the community and the music industry has been a challenge. 

“Right now I am trying to recover from it and get my life back on track. People approach me as though I am a felon but I was just an ordinary person, who was met with a misfortune.

“I believe I am overcoming all the challenges and proud of the lessons I learned from it. Half the time I condemn and judge myself and at the same time I’m grateful that I have been granted another lease on life,” he said.

Dj Rochester said the only thing remaining now is to overcome the pressure brought by people who look and talk to him in a different way and from there he is already working on new music. The deejay is signed under the stable Penya Play where he is set to release new music.   

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