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03 Sep 2007 16:57
Police officers who reportedly took part in a meat free-for-all near King William’s Town last month have been cleared from any charges.
The incident followed an accident in which a truck loaded with 211 pigs overturned on a road near Middledrift on August 5.
Onlookers apparently then stormed the truck and killed the pigs—of which some were still alive—for meat.
It was alleged that while onlookers were helping themselves to the free meat, there were police officers at the scene who did not take any action.
“Animals were gutted while they were alive. They were stabbed and their hindquarters hacked at. It is the most horrific savagery I have ever experienced,” said Annette Rademeyer, the spokesperson of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in King William’s Town, at the time.
Rademeyer claimed that police officers also stole some of the animals. “Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, some members of the police deliberately removed number plates from their official vehicles and loaded animals in the vans to steal them,” she said.
The SPCA then filed a complaint about the unknown police officers’ misconduct with the provincial commissioner’s office.
On Friday, provincial police spokesperson Director Marinda Mills said in a statement that both the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) and a South African Police Service investigator had “emphatically cleared” police members from all allegations made by the SPCA, adding that the officers were also cleared of stealing any pigs.
Annette Rademeyer, King William’s Town SPCA spokesperson at that time said that the police officers only added to the chaos at the scene, “Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, some members of the police deliberately removed number plates from their official vehicles and loaded animals in the vans to steal them,” she said.
The ICD’s provincial head, Sakhele Phoswa, told the Mail & Guardian Online on Monday that the ICD had interviewed about 26 people who were at the scene of the accident. “We spoke to some people and what we have established is that there were too many people and very few police officers at the scene,” he said, adding that the police officers were not able to control the chaotic situation properly.
In a letter that Eastern Cape provincial police Commissioner Mpumelelo Landu wrote to Rademeyer on August 29 in response to the allegations made by the SPCA, he told Rademeyer that no police officers would be charged.
“Having perused both reports from the South African police inspectors as well as the ICD who conducted the investigation in this matter, it is clear that there was no improper conduct by the members of the SAPS that were present at the crime scene on the day in question,” said Landu.
In the same letter, Landu said that members of the community were given permission by the SPCA officials to remove the pigs from the scene of the accident.
Rademeyer, however, told the M&G Online on Monday that the SPCA did not give anyone permission to take either dead or live pigs. “All we did is was ask for help from the members of the community to help us remove the trapped animals. We didn’t give permission for the pigs to be taken away because that’s stock theft,” she said, adding that it was the SPCA’s responsibility to rescue the animals.
“The SPCA is not a security company—it was and is the job of the police to prevent the theft of property at an accident scene and to ensure that property is secured,” she said.
The ICD’s Phoswa said there was no evidence of misconduct at all. “None of the witnesses we interviewed said anything about police officers showing misconduct. The allegations were general,” he said.
The provincial police commissioner, in the letter, concluded that the police officers would go free. “In view thereof we have taken a decision that no charges both criminally and departmentally will be pressed against any members of the SAPS,” he said.
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