Four apple thieves who were caught in the act by police were lined up against a cliff face and pelted with the fruit they had stolen.
The five uniformed officers took turns grabbing handfuls of the stolen apples from their police pick-up truck, using the four thieves as live targets.
The crooks winced as they were battered by the fruit, but were ordered not to run away as the policemen in Theewaterskloof Municipality, in the Western Cape of South Africa, hurled the apples at them.
Now the police squad are being investigated by senior officers after a storm of criticism on social media slamming the officials for abusing their prisoners, the Daily Mail reported.
In footage of the punishment, the policemen giggle and egg each other on as they throw the apples as hard as they can, hitting the helpless men in the head, back and legs.
A colleague filmed the officers as they taunted the thieves with foul language before posting the video on Facebook.
Officers are said to have driven the four men to a deserted spot to face their punishment.
The men wince and shout in pain as the apples are thrown vigorously and strike home, causing deep bruising.
Kevi van Wyk, who posted a copy of the video to Facebook, told Times Live: "The officers caught the men stealing apples in Villersdorp and took them out to the mountains and lined them up before throwing the apples at them."
He said the woman who sent him the apple video had a second video which allegedly showed the officers strip one of the men naked and beat him up.
He said: "I have the names of three of the men and they are all based in Villersdorp".
Democratic Alliance mayor of Theewaterskloof Municipality Christelle Vosloo said an investigation has been launched into the conduct of the officers.
She said: "I regard this conduct as inhumane and a gross violation of the safety and dignity of the victims.
"I am devastated that the victims had to endure this trauma and I believe their constitutional rights not to be exposed to psychological, emotional and physical abuse had been violated.
"I will ensure an immediate investigation into the incident. If any personnel of the municipality are found guilty in regards to the incident they will face the strongest disciplinary actions possible."
She added: "I will meet with the victims and ensure that they receive all the support available to deal with the trauma they suffered."
Mr van Wyk said: "I was really upset by the footage. It is wrong to steal apples but I don't think this is the way to deal with it. It sends the wrong message".
Most of the 200 comments on Mr van Wyk's Facebook page, where he posted a copy of the footage, slammed the police officers involved.
But some said that the thieves deserved the pelting they got and suggested they should have been whipped as well.
Nathan Pillay said on the Facebook post: 'If these guys stole money, jewellery or raped, killed or robbed I would say well done.
"But to assault someone who stole food... honestly do you feel this is fair? And you end up wasting this food throwing it at them and damaging it? Really disappointed".
Tari Jacobs said: "Only our law enforcers would do this".
But Sindy van der Wal said she had heard the men had been throwing apples at passing motorists, so the law officers "taught them a lesson".
She added: "These guys won't die from being thrown with apples, nobody is that soft. If they were just walking, doing nothing wrong, then that's another story altogether.
"Reserve judgment til all facts are presented."
A spokesman for the police force was unavailable for comment.