The National Commissioner of Police, General Fannie Masemola, is investigating a roadside assault incident involving Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP protection team.
In cellphone footage wildly shared on social media, armed security personnel are seen assaulting occupants of a popular hatchback brand on the N1 freeway in Johannesburg. In the video, the heavily-armed protectors can be seen jumping out of their blue light vehicle, dragging the two occupants out of their car, and kicking and stomping them in their faces.
One of the protectors, wielding a rifle, then opened the boot of the car and searched it in the middle of a busy national road in Gauteng.
In the background, a shocked and dismayed couple can head heard discussing the incident as it unfolded.
“Look what is happening here. Lord! Common!,” shouted a frustrated woman from inside a car behind.
“He has fainted.”
A male voice responded: “You know what they did? They disturbed them. These ones can kill you. These ones, they can kill you, I don’t wanna lie.”
The protectors raced back to their cars and sped off.
One of the victims depicted in the video appeared to be unconscious when security personnel left the scene at high speed.
Last night, the South African Police Service (SAPS) confirmed that their members were involved in the incident, with Mashatile’s spokesperson Vukani Mde further confirming this morning the personnel were assigned to the country’s second in command.
“The Deputy President has become aware of an unfortunate incident involving members of the South African Police Service who are attached to his protection detail and civilians, which occurred in Johannesburg over the weekend.
“The Deputy President abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians. The National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola, has promised a thorough investigation of the incident and articulated the conduct expected of police officers very well,” said Mde.
Mashatile has requested the public to allow the investigation to unfold, saying the incident was a cause for concern.
SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said the police have successfully traced the victims of this incident.
“The process to obtain their statements continues as part of the probe. The police officers involved have also been identified and will be subjected to internal processes. Management of the SAPS views this as serious and will get to the bottom of this incident.
“While the internal departmental investigation into the conduct of the members is underway, the SAPS distances itself from the conduct and behaviour depicted in the video, which does not align with the values and code of conduct of the SAPS, which outlines the values and principles that all SAPS members are expected to uphold, including integrity, professionalism, accountability, and respect for human rights,” Mathe said.
Masemola has also condemned the incident.
“Members of the SAPS are meant to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of every person and exercise the powers conferred upon them in a responsible and controlled manner. Such action cannot be condoned regardless of the circumstance,” said Masemola.
The incident is the last thing Mashatile needs after being the subject of what seems to be a media onslaught in recent weeks. He has been accused of benefitting from the generosity of businessmen who allegedly bankrolled his expensive lifestyle.
It is not the first time that the SAPS VIP protection unit has terrorised and used brutal force against ordinary citizens. In February 2010, the then University of Cape Town student, Chumani Maxwele, was bundled into a police car, detained at the Rondebosch and Mowbray police stations and later freed without appearing before a magistrate court, after allegedly swearing at showing former President Jacob Zuma’s motorcade the middle finger while jogging in Cape Town.
The then Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa later paid him an undisclosed amount of money in an out-of-court settlement after Maxwele had sued the police for R1.4 million.
In November 2016, then mayor of Johannesburg, Herman Mashaba, tweeted that then Zuma’s motorcade was involved in an incident that left his friend dead.
“I have just received the terrible news that President Zuma’s blue lights brigades killed a friend Solly Moutlana yesterday”, tweeted Mashaba.
The presidency then issued a statement, refuting the claims.
“It is unfortunate that Mr Mashaba, if the tweet is indeed by him, seeks to create an impression that a SAPS convoy transporting the President caused this painful loss of life which is totally untrue and misleading.
“The President was in East London on Friday to participate in the National Council of Province’s Taking Parliament to the People event, having travelled from Cape Town. From East London he flew to KwaZulu-Natal province. He left Pretoria on Tuesday,” the Presidency had stated. “The Presidency, on enquiry, has been informed that police are investigating a case involving the knocking of a pedestrian by a car driven by a police officer in Pretoria. The pedestrian subsequently passed away. The Presidency extends heartfelt condolences to the family of the deceased on this tragic loss.”