Johannesburg - The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) confirmed it was already investigating charges against VIP Protection Unit officers assigned to Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security detail who assaulted motorists on the N1.
The officers were caught on camera punching and stomping on a motorist and two passengers; one of them appeared to be unconscious.
The video, captured by an unknown motorist, went viral. The incident happened over the weekend in the Fourways area. According to the SA National Defence Union (Sandu), the three victims were members of the SANDF.
“The victims were en route from Johannesburg to Pretoria when a black SUV appeared next to their vehicle, and one of the occupants of the SUV was pointing a firearm at the victims’ vehicle,” said Sandu national secretary general Pikkie Greeff.
“The victims’ vehicle was subsequently boxed in by more SUVs and forced to the left side of the N1 highway. The occupants of the SUV exited their vehicles, surrounding the victims’ vehicle, and attempted to smash the windscreen of the vehicle and assault the occupants,” Greeff said.
He added that the victims were interviewed by Ipid and were advised to refrain from engaging with any police officers during the investigation.
Non-profit organisation Action Society is crying foul over the single charge opened against the attackers. The group’s director of community safety, Ian Cameron, said that only a grievous bodily harm case had been opened.
“We have just confirmed that only one charge was opened by Ipid against the blue-light officers . This means that attempted murder, intimidation, pointing a firearm and malicious damage to property have all been left out. Action Society SA is following up,” he said.
However, Ipid’s national spokesperson, Robbie Raburabu, dismissed the claims. “I can confirm that Ipid is investigating three charges of assault, malicious damage to property in respect of the vehicle, and pointing a firearm,” said Raburabu.
According to the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), the external police accountability agency, Ipid, had not performed much better.
“Of the 47 984 cases opened against police officials between 2012 and 2020, only 16% were referred to the SAPS for disciplinary action, with a paltry 3.2% ending in a disciplinary conviction. Only 0.4%, or 194 police officials, were dismissed as a result. The effect is widespread police brutality and corruption, resulting in declining public trust and support for the police,” said ISS.
ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula said during a media briefing yesterday at Luthuli House in Johannesburg that the assault put a serious blight on the police services as a whole. He called on Ipid to thoroughly investigate the matter.
Mbalula said the ANC was “equally dismayed” and called for the immediate suspension of those involved. He said the party was extremely alarmed that the officers in the violent attack were attached to Mashatile’s protection detail.
“Their behaviour was not only cowardly, but runs against the grain of what the SAPS stands for. The majority of police serve the country diligently, but such incidents put a serious blight on the SAPS,” Mbalula said.
EFF Gauteng chairperson Nkululeko Dunga said the party had called on national Police Commissioner, General Fannie Masemola, to speed up the investigation and arrest the culprits “who have undermined the integrity of the police force”.
“Knowing how toothless Ipid is when it comes to dealing with such cases, the EFF commits to make a follow-up to guard against victimisation and ensure justice is served,” said Dunga.
Brett Herron, GOOD secretary-general and MP, said the party welcomed Masemola’s intervention and vowed to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the event. “No one is above the law, including those who are supposed to be protecting the deputy president of the country, and incidents of this nature only further erode the trust our citizens have in the police,” Herron said.
National SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said four officers had been served with notice of suspension.
No arrests have been made.
*Additional reporting from IOL.