/ 4 July 2023

VIP officers in assault video are part of Mashatile security detail

Mashatile says the party's leadership wanted Zuma's exit to be handled internally
Deputy president, Paul Mashatile. File photo

The VIP protection unit members caught on video assaulting young men on the side of the N1 in Johannesburg are part of the security detail of Deputy President Paul Mashatile

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) said the victims were military trainees. 

Mashatile’s spokesperson, Vukani Mde, told the Mail & Guardian on Tuesday that the deputy president was not in the vehicle when the assault took place. 

“The deputy president condemns the behaviour and finds the video very disturbing,” said Mde. He added that Mashatile’s office had been in contact with the South African Police Service (SAPS). 

The video clip of the eight officers assaulting the seemingly unarmed trainees — one of whom was rendered unconscious after a kick to the head — went viral on social media on Monday. 

Shortly after speaking to the M&G, Mde released a statement in which he said Mashatile “abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians”. 

“The national commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola, has promised a thorough investigation of the incident and articulated the conduct expected of police officers very well.

“Members of the SAPS are meant to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of every person and exercise the powers conferred upon them in a responsible and controlled manner,” he said.

SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe said the police were obtaining statements from the victims and that an “internal departmental investigation is underway”.   

Ipid national spokesperson Robbie Raburabu told the M&G that the victims of the alleged assault were military trainees, who had to get permission from their commander before opening a case against the VIP officers. 

A case will not be opened with the military police because “we [Ipid] have a mandate over the [VIP] officers”, said Raburabu.  

He said the officers would be charged with assault after statements were taken from the victims, and their injuries determined.

The incident was captured on video by passing motorists and sparked widespread reaction from the public, opposition parties and civil rights organisations. The so-called blue-light brigade has, over the years, become notorious for bullying tactics on the roads.  

The director of civil rights lobby group Action Society, Ian Cameron, reiterated the need to stop the use of blue-light brigades. 

“It [should] have stopped long ago. It has continued for two decades and it is only getting worse,” said Cameron. 

He said incidents of altercations between blue light officers and civilians took place “frequently”, and it was mere coincidence that the latest was caught on camera.  

The Democratic Alliance’s spokesperson on the police, Andrew Whitfield, has condemned the incident, and called on Police Minister Bheki Cele to arrest the “thugs in 24 hours”.  

In 2011, the Justice Project South Africa launched a petition to ban blue lights for everyone except marked emergency and law enforcement vehicles.