/ 11 July 2023

All eight SAPS members in VIP assault suspended

Bheki Cele
Police Minister Bheki Cele. (Michele Spatari/AFP)

The eight VIP protection unit members captured on video assaulting young men on the side of the N1 in Johannesburg last week have been suspended. 

The officers were part of the security detail of Deputy President Paul Mashatile, who has said he was not in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

National police spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe announced late on Monday night that the officers “have been suspended in terms of the SAPS disciplinary regulations, as of Monday, 10 July 2023”. 

The brief press statement concluded with Mathe saying that the police “wishes not to discuss the matter further”. 

The officers were served with suspension notices last week after the video showing them assaulting military trainees went viral on social media. 

A case of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property and pointing a firearm was opened against the men days after the incident took place. 

Police Minister Bheki Cele has not yet commented on the matter. 

Cele, through his spokesperson Lirandzu Themba, did not respond to the Mail & Guardian’s request for comment about the state’s VIP protection unit. 

Themba upheld that the police “through the National Commissioner has spoken on this matter at length”. 

At a media briefing last Thursday, Fannie Masemola, the national police commissioner, described the conduct of the VIP protection officers as “quite concerning”.

In response to the assault incident, Masemola said he had directed the divisional commissioner of protection and security services, including human resources development, to identify areas to “retrain” and “talk” to members of protection services. 

“Do sessions with them and go and talk to them to improve the relations between them and the community [and], at the same time, ask the communities to work and cooperate with the police at all times.”

Masemola declined to answer questions about why the officers — who could be seen pointing firearms at the three victims — were not immediately arrested. Instead, he referred the question to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), which was not at the briefing.

At the time, Ipid national spokesperson Robbie Raburabu told the M&G that they still needed to get medical records from the victims and that Ipid “investigates before we arrest”.