Police cleared of 'blasphemous remarks' during mosque lockdown arrests
Police Minister Bheki Cele on Friday said no action has been taken against any officer for the "blasphemous remarks" allegedly made when they arrested about 24 Muslim worshippers in Masibekela in the Mbuzini area in Mpumalanga.
In a video that recently went viral, a group of armed police officers could be heard screaming at the congregants in what appears to be a mosque.
Among other utterances, a police officer shouts to the congregants “Are you bigger than the president? Or is Mohammed bigger than the president?”
Responding to a question on action taken against the members at a joint meeting of parliamentary committees, Cele said he and the SAPS management regretted the unfortunate conduct displayed by the officers in the incident.
He said when the officers rushed to the mosque, they were told that the congregants were called to the service by a man named Mohammed.
He said they had found on their arrival three men who were identified as Mohammed.
Cele also said the" blasphemous remarks" came from questioning the three men who were named as Mohammed at the time of the incident not Prophet Mohammed.
"The member has been cleared because he did not refer to Prophet Mohammed. He referred to (the person named as) Mohammed that was there," he added.
But MP Munzoor Shaik-Emam was not convinced by the explanation.
"I am not satisfied based on what we viewed," Shaik-Emam said.
Cele insisted that the affected officer was asking a namesake that was an organiser of that illegal gathering who was arrested.
"They appeared in court and got free bail. They will appear again in August," he added.
Responding to a question about heavy handedness of the officers, the minister said there were such instances.
"Indeed, there is a number. Sometimes they get overexcited. They are not many," he said.
"Many of our members do their job according to the book, " Cele said.
"Many members will be there to make sure that they do their job, sometimes, under heavy provocation," he added.
The minister said SAPS members had been cautioned about their conduct when they were deployed for the lockdown.
"We reminded them that 'you police under the culture of human rights and constitutionality so behave as such and use all laws to police'."