Pretoria-based journalist Frans Sello Machate says he was severely assaulted in front of his wife and young children inside his house at around 2am by members of the South African Police Service and Tshwane Metro Police Department. Photo: Jonisayi Maromo / ANA

PRETORIA - The National Press Club (NPC) on Wednesday condemned the alleged assault of Pretoria-based journalist Frans Sello Machate, who had to receive stitches to his head at the Steve Biko Academic hospital after his home was raided.

"While not commenting on the merits of the case, the NPC condemned what appeared to be excessive force by the police against an unarmed citizen in front of his traumatised family. The NPC asserts the police’ right to uphold law and order, but note that this cannot be done outside the prescripts of the Constitution," said NPC chairman Jos Charle. 

“Everyone should be presumed innocent until evidence is provided before a court of law and a competent judicial process adjudicates in the matter. The assault on any citizen - irrespective of their professional standing - cannot be tolerated in a free, democratic society such as South Africa," said Charle.

Machate, who runs his independent PINA news agency in Pretoria, is a long-standing member of the press club.

“We urge the relevant authorities - including Ipid - to investigate the alleged conduct of the officers, while allowing due process to unfold,” said Charle.

Machate claims he was severely assaulted in front of his wife and young children inside his house at around 2am after members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) broke down a palisade wall, security gates and doors.

The alleged assault happened after Machate arrived home from a National Press Club discussion event held in Centurion, Pretoria.

He said as he got closer to his home, in a security complex, he noticed a unmarked Ford Figo with registration HC97JD GP following him. 

"It was after midnight and I noticed that whenever I turned, that car also turned. I drove past my house, and made a turn. The car was no longer following me, and I drove into my yard. As I was preparing to sleep, my wife and I heard noises outside our house. Those people started breaking the precast wall, the security gates and the doors. I immediately called the SAPS' 10111 number to seek help," Machate narrated to African News Agency as he was released from police holding cells. 

"I brought all my children into my bedroom. About 15 police officers stormed my bedroom after kicking down the bedroom door as well. Inside, they quickly handcuffed me from behind and started ransacking the house. They were pointing firearms at us and my wife and children were crying."

Machate said his office space in the house was also ransacked, with mobile phones and video cameras "thrown around".

"When they took me outside the house, a member of the Tshwane Metro Police hit my head with his metal torch, and I started bleeding. My scalp broke and they had to take me to [Steve Biko Academic] hospital so that I get stitched. We left the hospital at around 5am this morning. They have charged me and released me."

Machate was charged with reckless and negligent driving, drunk driving, and assaulting a police officer.  

"How can I assault someone when I was handcuffed. Actually, when we got to this Silverton police station, they put me in a room. In there, four police officers started kicking me all over [the body] while I was handcuffed at the back. I have been handcuffed so tight throughout, and there are marks on my hands," he said.

Sources told African News Agency that a charge of attempted murder has also been added to the docket, as police officers claim Machate tried to kill them by swerving his car as they were trying to stop him on the road.

Machate's wife, Tintswalo, showed reporters the blood spilled on the pavement at the house as her husband was bundled away by police.

"The kids are traumatised because everything happened in front of them.  The 13-year-old's eyes were swollen when he left for school. He had to walk to the school all by himself because I had to care for his four-year-old and the two-months siblings," she said.

"The four-year old has been saying he will grow up and stand up for his daddy. He keeps on repeating what happened. I'm trying to arrange some counseling for the two elder brothers. I'm shaken and traumatised. I couldn't sleep because the door and the burglar gate were damaged so I couldn't sleep with an open door."

Tintswalo said during the melee, she was also roughed up by the police.

"One guy pushed me from the passage screaming that I must open the garage," she said.

Tshwane Metro Police Department's spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba, who is handling the matter on behalf of SAPS and TMPD, said the matter of Machate's complaint, and the police officers' claims will be thoroughly investigated.

African News Agency (ANA)