Thuggery, brutality tarnish cop image

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The death of Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia at the hands of police drew protests and outrage. Photo: Reuters

Pretoria - Being dragged behind a police van, being shot at by police or being raped by officers who offered help… these are but some of the horrific stories of brutality at the hands of those meant to serve and protect that have blighted the reputation of the SAPS this year.

 Incidents of violence perpetrated by the police have left many citizens distrustful of the men and women in blue, and have embarrassed the national police commissioner and others in charge of the service.

A survey has found most young South Africans don’t trust the police. Consumer insights company Pondering Panda found last month that just one in 10 young South Africans say they trust the police.

The survey reached close to 4 000 people between the ages of 18 and 34.

One in three people said they never trusted the police while just more than half said they sometimes trusted police.

“It’s a huge concern how few young South Africans trust the police. The majority only trust them in certain situations, and as many as a third don’t trust the police under any circumstances,” spokeswoman Shirley Wakefield said.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa told Parliament that acts of brutality were an “embarrassment” that had impacted on the reputation of the SAPS.

“Over the past months,” he said during his department’s budget vote in June, “some of our officers have made headlines, dominated discussions at homes, workplaces, taxi ranks and schools, including this very august House of Parliament - for the wrong reasons”.

Cellphone images of policemen assaulting and then dragging Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia behind their van went viral after publication in the Daily Sun, and caused an outcry.

The foreign national was later found dead in the Daveyton police cells.

Nine officers were arrested: Thamsanqa Ncema, 35, Linda Sololo, 56, Meshack Melele, 45, Motome Walter Ramatlou, 37, Percy Mnisi, 26, Bongumusa Mdluli, 25, Sipho Ngobeni, 30, Lungisa Qwababa, 31, and Bongani Kolisi, 37.

National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega suspended the officers and also removed the Daveyton Station Commander from his post.

At the time she said she had viewed the video “with extreme shock and outrage”.

The group’s first bail application in March was denied. In May they submitted an urgent application to the Pretoria High Court, but this too failed.

However, in August, the suspects were granted bail of R5 000 each.

Their trial is set to begin in May.

In Atteridgeville, another incident involving the police sparked outrage.

A 17-year-old girl from the township said she was given a lift from a tavern by two policemen after she had had an argument with her boyfriend.

But she alleged the two, instead of taking her home, undressed her in the back seat of the car and took turns to rape her.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesman Moses Dlamini confirmed the incident which involved a 51-year-old warrant officer and a 22-year-old constable.

The pair were denied bail and are due back in court early next year.

In July, police released a report stating that 1 448 officers who had criminal records - that included murder, rape nd corruption - were still active members of the police service.

DA spokeswoman on police Dianne Kohler Barnard called on Phiyega to act swiftly, stating that all SAPS members with criminal records should immediately be dismissed.

“All members of the SAPS, including those within its leadership, should be professional police officers who protect South Africans from criminals.

“They should not, and cannot, be criminals themselves,” Kohler Barnard said.

Claims of motorists falling prey to so-called “blue light” robberies - where criminals use a blue light to dupe drivers into believing they are police - also featured prominently.

Various claims of motorists being pulled off the N1 and around the city were made.

The cries of a University of Pretoria student fell on deaf ears when he was accosted by three men dressed in police uniform.

After shoving him into the back of their vehicle, one of the hijackers assaulted him, tied his hands with cable ties, and covered his face with a jacket.

For about two hours the terrified student, who asked that his name be withheld, was driven around the city in his Golf 6 GTI.

When the car eventually came to a stop, he was cut loose and told to run and not look back.

To this day it is not known if the suspects were genuine police officials or not, and no arrests have been made.

In August, a couple from Mountain View were added to the list of blue-light attack victims.

Driving along the R21, they were stopped by what appeared to have been six rogue police officers from the Katlehong tactical response team (TRT) unit.

According to Emile Jansen van Rensburg, he and his wife were forced off the road by the marked vehicle and had R5 rifles pointed at them.

They were assaulted and their cellphones taken by the “officers” so they could not record or call for help.

Another passing blue-light brigade came to their rescue.

At the time police spokesman Brigadier Neville Malila said police viewed the allegations in a serious light. This case too is still under investigation.

In Lynnwood, a police officer shot and killed a man and wounded another while they had been waiting in a car outside a townhouse complex in Glenwood Road for a woman friend with whom they had arranged to play tennis.

Lucky Hakueri, 37, who worked at the Zimbabwean embassy, was shot dead after he and his friend were regarded as suspicious by the police who said that when they approached the men’s vehicle, they had driven off at speed.

The woman said she believed the officer had suspected Hakueri and his friend were criminals trying to evade arrest, while the two men had apparently rushed off for fear the police officer was a hijacker.

When he was shot, Hakueri lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wall.

Police have confirmed the matter is still under investigation.

Pretoria News

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