/ 5 July 2023

Mbalula: Don’t blame ANC for highway police brutality

Screenshot 2023 07 05 At 16.39.10

Images of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP protection unit “kicking” men “like a football” on the side of the N1 freeway will forever be etched in the consciousness of society, ANC secretary general Fikile Mbalula warned on Wednesday.

He said such incidents were often blamed on the ANC by “opportunists”, tarnishing the party’s name. 

Mbalula was speaking at a media briefing on a range of issues that included the Phala Phala matter involving President Cyril Ramaphosa and the money stolen from his game farm, as well as the ANC’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine, after the ANC’s national working committee (NEC) meeting this week. 

He said the ANC condemned the police brutality, which went viral on social media over the weekend, adding that it was the type of violence that could incite protests to “take down the government”.

He called for a full Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) inquiry, and for the suspension of the VIP protection unit members identified in the video. 

Brigadier Athlenda Mathe, spokesperson for the South African Police Service (SAPS), told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday that it had already served suspension notices on the officers.

According to a statement released by the South African National Defence Force Union, the victims are military trainees who told the union that they were driving from Johannesburg to Pretoria when a black SUV pulled up next to them and an occupant pointed a firearm at them, before more SUV’s boxed in their vehicle. 

A video clip shows the officers assaulting the trainees on the N1 roadside where one is left unconscious after a kick to the head, before the VIP officers return to their vehicles and drive away.

“This runs against the grain of what SAPS stands for — the majority of our men and women service our country diligently,” Mbalula said.

“We saw a small Polo [in the video clip] and then people being trampled on by police. Ipid must investigate what threat [they saw] in that Polo which made them act in the manner in which they did,” he said.

“From the eye of the man on the street, we saw brutality, people being trampled on. It is the kind of thing that takes people to march to take down the government. We saw people on social media frowning on it,” Mbalula said.

“We want to ensure this matter is investigated and properly reported to the public. It is easy point scoring to apportion blame on the deputy president who doesn’t carry out his own protection, but people are employed to protect him, those are law enforcement officers,” he said.

He also condemned other incidents of road rage, including last week where a police officer shot dead a Joburg metro police officer in Braamfontein, and the unauthorised use of police blue lights when officers are travelling on personal social visits.

Phala Phala

On the issue of acting public protector Kholeka Gcaleka’s findings that cleared President Cyril Ramaphosa of any wrongdoing regarding the handling of theft of dollars from his private farm in Limpopo, Mbalula said the NEC welcomed her report. 

He said it was “only opportunists” who sought to abuse the code of ethics by falsely accusing Ramaphosa and undermining constitutional democracy.

“The ANC welcomes the report that found there was no evidence of paid work outside of his duties as president,” Mbalula said.

Regarding the ANC’s position on Russia’s war in Ukraine, he said the NEC had reiterated its position that the party was a “messenger of peace and not war” and reaffirmed its non-aligned “anti-war” stance.

Mbalula said the NEC had also reflected on trade union Solidarity’s complaint about amendments to the Employment Equity Act filed against the government with the International Labour Organisation, alleging that these are “biased against minority groups” and in violation of the ILO’s Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention of 1958. 

He said the government had to demonstrate to the ILO that Solidarity’s allegations were “incorrect and damaging” to South Africa.

“They said the result would be the disposal of coloureds and Indians from jobs and replacing them with Africans … they are reigniting the apartheid era of ‘swart gevaar’ tactics, creating a racial gulf of Africans on one hand and coloureds and Indians on the other.”

He said the ANC’s definition of “black” comprised Indian, coloured and black African people.

The NEC had also focused on energy security problems, Mbalula said, adding that Eskom had stabilised its electricity generation capacity and cut planned maintenance downtime, reducing daily stages of load-shedding from stages four to six down to stages one to three during the last few weeks of June.

“We all know the story, there is no grid collapse — it’s a total falsehood. We will face the challenges,” Mbalula said. 

He commended Eskom staff for the improvement in electricity supply.