New Zealand cops detain SA reporter for ‘drug dealing’

South African rugby journalist Vata Ngobeni was detained during the early hours of Monday morning when Taupo, New Zealand, police removed him from a local pub on suspicion he was a drug dealer.

Ngobeni, an employee of Pretoria News and rugby analyst for the South African Broadcasting Commission (SABC), was the only black patron in the pub at the time, said a South African Press Association journalist travelling with him.

Ngobeni was taken to a police station and searched. He was also instructed to remove items of clothing.

“I have never been so embarrassed in my life,” said Ngobeni, who was released shortly after he was searched.

“I have never experienced this kind of treatment in all my travels around the world, so to be singled out as a common criminal in front of so many people is something I will never forget.”

“It just sums up what we’ve been hearing since we got here — New Zealand is not the place people think it is,” Ngobeni told the Mail and Guardian on Monday.

“I am not too concerned though. Apparently cops do it all the time and target people with a dark skin. They’ll go into a bar, search for a black person and target them,” Ngobeni added.

Ngobeni has vowed to remain in New Zealand until the end of the tournament.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s been a good trip so far, but I am never going back to Taupo again — that I can tell you,” Ngobeni said.

Profile of a ‘drug dealer’
When police approached him, Ngobeni tried to explain that he was a journalist on tour covering the Springboks — in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup — for television, radio and his newspaper.

An officer responded by saying that Ngobeni fitted the profile of a drug dealer. They had to conduct a search at a local police station.

Police officers on the scene said they were following what they called standard procedure.

Taupo residents who witnessed the scene expressed sympathy for Ngobeni.

” … There are some idiots in the pig factory [police station] in this town,” said an elderly man.

Another commented “you will find that the police pick up all the … old cars with black drivers.”

Ngobeni said he had later received an apology from police.

Ngobeni said he had never before seen the inside of a police station — never mind being asked to get into a police vehicle in front of a crowd of people. – Sapa

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