Mcebo Dlamini in leg irons during his appearance in the Johannesburg Magistrate's Court, and unshackled Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen in the Middelburg Magistrate's Court.

Johannesburg - Race had nothing to do with student leader Mcebo Dlamini being shackled with leg irons in court while the Mpumalanga coffin assault suspects weren't, police said on Thursday.

Spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said he didn't understand why the manner in which Dlamini, Theo Jackson and Willem Oosthuizen were restrained during their separate court appearances was an issue.

A picture of Dlamini in leg irons at the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court for his first appearance last month alongside that of Jackson and Oosthuizen, who weren't shackled when they appeared in the dock in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court this week, set social media ablaze.

Many people attributed the discrepancy to white privilege.

Dlamini was arrested for public violence, theft and the possession of dangerous weapons. Jackson and Oosthuizen were arrested after a video of them assaulting a man and trying to burn him alive in a coffin went viral.

People questioned why the white men were treated differently. Many believed racism played a part.

The decision on whether to use leg irons on a suspect was taken by either the investigating officer or the person guarding the suspect, Mohlala said, adding that it had nothing to do with race.

It depended on the type of offence, and the reputation, character and behaviour of the offender, as well as whether they were a flight risk. “They will use their judgment as they know the circumstances under which a person is appearing.”

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