These illegally parked cars owned by SAPS officers from units such as VIP Protection led to a major confrontation between policemen and Tshwane Metro Police officers outside the SAPS Maupa Naga building in Park Street. Picture: Masi Losi

The Tshwane Metro Police’s decision to tow away illegally parked SAPS cars has led to a punch-up between members of the two forces and to a ministerial investigation.

The altercation erupted when metro police officers tried to tow away several police officers’ private vehicles that had been parked on the pavement outside a SAPS national office in Sunnyside on Thursday.

According to initial reports received by one spokesman, this nearly led to a “wild-West style shoot-out”.

Police who saw the metro police officers immediately rushed outside to stop them.

Senior management descended on the scene to find a fist fight under way.

As the argument, which took place in Park Street, escalated, more and more policemen rushed from the building, forcing the metro police to call for back-up and support from senior management.

Exchanging words, officers of the two forces apparently began assaulting each other when the metro policemen refused to unhitch a vehicle owned by an SAPS officer.

It is understood that during the fracas, officers on either side drew guns and threatened to shoot each other. Panicking motorists who saw policemen drawing their guns alerted metro police authorities, who dispatched senior officers to calm the situation.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said: “The ministry will, through an internal departmental inquiry, investigate these allegations because we find such reports not only disturbing, but utterly embarrassing.”

The ministry expected police management “to meet to pave a way forward, share expertise on how to keep communities safe and… resolve (disputes over) illegally parked vehicles”.

Mnisi said the police could not “allow such comical acts to dampen society’s confidence in police” because the country’s police forces needed to lead by example.

Commenting on the alleged assaults on metro police officers, Daniel Manganye, Tshwane’s head of community safety, said angrily: “We will not let the police intimidate us, irrespective of their rank.

“We have a job to do and we will do it, even if it means dying for what we have been constitutionally mandated to do and have sworn to do.”

Tshwane Metro Police spokesman William Baloyi said the force condemned the assault on the metro police officers.

“An investigation into what happened has been launched. It will look into a number of matters, including the allegations that officers pulled guns on each other,” Baloyi said. “We met senior SAPS management and have resolved the situation.”

Baloyi said that an agreement had been reached in which it was acknowledged that no one was above the law and that the metro police had a job to do and should be allowed to do their jobs.

“The country’s laws will be respected by any agency of the state, irrespective of what that law is.

“While there are parking issues, these are issues that SAPS management must address.

“Any vehicles that are parked illegally will be towed, irrespective of who their owners are.” Pretoria News