File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

WITBANK - South African Police Service (SAPS) officers have arrested three people in connection with alleged excessive use of force and brutality by private security guards during a protest by community members at Uthingo Park in Witbank on Friday, Mpumalanga police said.

The alleged brutality, captured on video currently doing the rounds on social media, reportedly took place during a physical engagement between the guards and members of the community, who were "reportedly protesting about some contentious issues within their community. They were reportedly burning tyres in the process when the guards reportedly moved in", Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said on Saturday.

"Information at police disposal suggested that a member of the community allegedly wanted to disarm a security guard of his firearm, leading to a squabble, whereupon his [the guard's] colleagues came to his assistance, and in the process administered excessive force on the individual," he said.

"The victim is seen on the video being pressed down and beaten up, including with firearm butts on his upper body. The latter opened an assault with an intent to cause grievous bodily harm (assault GBH) case."

SAPS management in the province, while acknowledging and appreciating the role played by the private security industry in the fight against crime, warned that the use of excessive force disproportionate to a threat amounted to brutality and was punishable by law, Hlathi said.

"The management went on to say that not even the police are allowed to use disproportionate force under any circumstance. On the same note, the police management cautioned security companies to contact the police should there be public disturbances caused by the community because they (police) are trained to deal with such circumstances," he said.

Police appealed to the Uthingo Park community to remain calm and use the relevant communications processes and dialogue to resolve their problems.

"Spiralling from the video incident, police have moved swiftly and arrested three suspects yesterday [Friday] and they are expected to appear at the Witbank Magistrate's Court on Monday, 8 July 2019, facing an assault (GBH) charge," Hlathi said.

African News Agency (ANA)