- A video capturing police brutality in South Africa has sparked outrage, raising concerns about the conduct of the police security team assigned to protect Deputy President Paul Mashatile.
- In the video, armed plainclothes officers from the notorious “blue light brigade” are seen dragging a man out of a car and viciously stomping on his head and body, rendering him unconscious.
- The police protection unit, known for using unnecessary force and intimidating driving tactics with their blue lights and sirens, is responsible for safeguarding South African politicians and VIPs.
A group of armed plainclothes officers assigned to protect South Africa’s deputy president were caught on video dragging a man out of a car and then stomping on his head until he lies motionless, sparking outrage and drawing more attention to the country’s problems with police brutality.
The officers are part of the police security team protecting South Africa Deputy President Paul Mashatile, his office confirmed on Tuesday. There are no indications that Mashatile was present during the incident. His spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to phone calls seeking further comment.
The video of the weekend incident shows the officers, some of whom are holding rifles, dragging the man across the road and then kicking him and stomping on his head and body. The man appears to be kicked unconcious and lies motionless on his back after the attack. The officers are also seen kicking another man, who holds his hands over his head to protect himself.
The police protection unit is known in South Africa as the “blue light brigade” and has a reputation for using unneccesary force. The unit is known for driving fast down highways and reacting with force if other drivers don’t immediately recognize the small blue lights and sirens in their vehicles and move out of the way.
Mashatile’s office said in a statement that the incident happened in Johannesburg this weekend, and added that he “abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians.”
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It didn’t say if Mashatile had been part of a convoy of vehicles traveling on the highway in the leadup to the incident.
The video was recorded by a person in another car not involved in the incident and posted to Twitter.
After the incident, the officers, who are part of the dedicated police unit tasked with protecting South African politicans and other VIPs, get into two black SUVs and drive away.
The video shows a third man also lying on the side of the road in the aftermath. It’s unclear if he was also beaten. A woman is seen getting out of the car and holding her hands above her head during the incident.
At least seven police officers, some of them wearing suits, were involved and the video shows at least three of them kicking and stomping on the two men. Two of the officers seen kicking the men are holding rifles while the third has a pistol in his hand.
Amid an outcry, national police spokersperson Brig. Athlenda Mathe said in a statement that the police officers have been identified “and will be subjected to internal processes.”
Police had also “successfully traced the victims of this incident,” Mathe said, and they were being interviewed.
Mathe also posted the 45-second long video on her Twitter account. She wrote in an earlier tweet that “Police officers are meant to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of every person … Such behaviour cannot be condoned.”
The statement from Mashatile’s office said South Africa’s national police commissioner had “promised a thorough investigation.”
It’s not clear what led to the incident as the car had already been pulled over by the time the video starts.
South Africa has a problem with police brutality, with the most notorious recent incident in 2012 when 34 miners were killed when police fired on them with assault rifles during a strike over wages and conditions. In another high-profile incident in 2020 that gained national attention, a man was beaten to death at his home by soldiers while police watched on.
The independent body that deals with misconduct by police investigated 3,407 cases of unlawful assault by officers in the 2021-2022 financial year, a rate of nearly 10 a day.