CNN — South African police say four officers attached to Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s protection team, face multiple charges, including assault, after they were seen on video stomping on two unarmed men on the side of a highway in Johannesburg last week.
The viral footage, which has left many South Africans outraged, showed Mashatile’s armed security detail forcibly pulling two men out of a vehicle after they pulled over on the side of the highway.
The plainclothes officers then proceeded to kick and stomp on the two men.
The victims, both members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), were traveling to Johannesburg from the capital Pretoria when their vehicle was surrounded by SUVs driven by the VIP police officers, according to a statement from SANDF’s trade union.
“One of the occupants in the SUV was pointing a firearm at the victims’ vehicle. The victims’ vehicle was subsequently boxed in by more SUVs and forced, in formation, to the left side of the N1 highway,” the statement said.
“The occupants of the SUVs exited their vehicles surrounding the victims’ vehicle and attempted to smash the windscreen of the victims’ vehicle. Upon not being successful in that attempt, the assailants proceeded to smash the back window of the victims’ vehicle and assault the occupants of that vehicle,” it continued.
Deputy President Mashatile, who wasn’t at the scene of the assault, described the incident as “unfortunate.”
“The Deputy President abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians,” a statement released by his office said.
National police spokesperson Athlenda Mathe told CNN on Wednesday that the officers have been issued suspension letters and were under investigation by a police oversight body on multiple counts of assault, firearms infringement, among others.
“A case has been opened by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID),” Mathe said, adding that the four officers face “three counts of assault, grievous bodily harm, pointing a firearm and malicious damage to property.”
“We do not condone such behavior regardless of the circumstances and we are saying no amount of provocation can lead to such behavior and we are moving with speed to address this unacceptable behavior,” the police spokeswoman said.
Police brutality is common in South Africa. Police Minister Bheki Cele noted in a recent performance plan that police violence had become “a worrying phenomenon in the country” with thousands of cases reported each year.
South Africa’s ruling ANC party has joined the chorus of condemnation against the recent attack, describing it as “cowardly” and “a serious blight on the police service.”
Source : CNN