Sadly, it happens all the time- it’s a convenient way for police to limit their workload or avoid dealing with crimes that are not run of the mill like housebreaking, rape, murder etc.
Clients of mine recently got turned away twice at a “good” police station when reporting theft of a refund due to them by a service provider. Another client got turned away when he tried to report a dealership that sold him a stolen car. In both cases the police said it was a “civil matter” and refused to open a docket.
SAPS National Instruction 3 of 2011 says SAPS are required to open a docket whenever a crime can be proven.
If the police turn you away, speak to the Station Commander (head of the police station) or email them. You can figure out what their email address will be as follows: insert the name of station and then add .email@example.com (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org) , copy email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org- the Station Commander’s secretary. Draw the Station Commander’s attention to National Instruction 3 of 2011 in writing and indicate you will report the commander and his/her station to the SAPS National Complaint Centre if they continue to refuse to open a docket. If necessary follow up on this email repeatedly. If you still get no joy, report them to the Complaint Centre at email@example.com (this is the Western Cape email address- for a station in another province, see https://www.saps.gov.za/services/service_complaints_centre.php).
All the best- we support you in getting justice done, as well as ensuring our civil servants do their job correctly and efficiently.