Outcry over officers wielding sjamboks
Cape Town - South African Rights (SAHRC) Commissioner Chris Nissen and other social justice activists have demanded answers from police management as to why officers were carrying sjamboks, claiming they have been used in other reported assault incidents.
Their stance comes as a senior police officer leads an investigation following a video showing two police officers assaulting men during a search in Worcester.
In the video three officers, two male and one female, are seen confronting three men.
The female officer confronts one of the men at the side of the Ceres branded SAPS vehicle, and it seems as though she slaps him a few times.
The second officer is seen to then drag the man alongside the vehicle and grab the sjambok from his colleague’s pocket before beating the man with it behind the vehicle.
Another male officer is seen also slapping one of the men, whose hands are held up against the van, after searching and taking things out of his pocket.
Provincial police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said preliminary findings led by the Worcester Cluster Commander General Nomthetheleli Mene found that the incident in the footage which was circulating on social media platforms happened on Monday in Worcester near an industrial area.
“The police vehicle in the video belongs to Ceres police station, hence the marking on the side of the van, but is currently utilised by a police unit in Worcester. The police officials captured in the video have been identified and are SAPS employees attached to a unit in Worcester. The two individuals are yet-to-be identified and interviewed as part of the investigation. Further investigation is expected to also shed light on what had happened prior to the recording commencing,” said Potelwa.
She said the investigation started on Tuesday.
“The preliminary investigation findings talk about only two officers and that doesn’t mean we have excluded the third police officer. She will be in the overall investigation because we are still trying to collect all data to see if she was also slapping one of the men. The officers are not based at Worcester station and to ensure they do not interfere with the investigation, it is being probed at a higher level. We have to follow all the processes so we cannot just suspend the officers. They will be called and interviewed,” she said.
Potelwa added that beating up and manhandling individuals or suspects was against departmental directives and prescripts that govern the handling of people by police officials.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Ndileka Cola said: “This matter was never reported to Ipid, the directorate only saw the circulating video, as such it is now tracking the complainants. If anyone knows the complainant, kindly inform them to contact Ipid.”
Nissen said: “I have made contact with the district commander, who promised to do the investigation. As the Human Rights Commission, we condemn that activity in the harshest terms. Those members must be charged. We'll be looking for the victims so they can also press charges against those SAPS members. We want answers why police carry sjamboks, because this is not the first – we have had that in some other stations as well.”
Nissen said the commission will monitor case to ensure the law takes its course.
Social activist Billy Claasen said: “The police officers conducted themselves in an unacceptable way and all those officers involved in the video must be brought to book. I brought this to the attention of the provincial commissioner as soon I was made aware of the video and something seriously needs to be done at this stage. These incidents are becoming too common in our communities and what we have observed is that when civilians try to lodge cases at police stations, the same police officers lay counter charges and the case is then thrown out of court. This needs to stop.”
Claasen said he was also aware of assault cases at the hands of police in many rural areas, including Lamberts Bay.
The EFF condemned what they called an "inhumane action" of the police officers.