‘Action needs to be taken’: SA reacts to alleged assault filmed in White River police station
A video of an alleged assault in a police station in White River, Mpumalanga, has sparked a major debate online.
In the video a man, identified as Barend Human, can be seen being dragged and kicked inside the White River police station while officers stand on the side and do nothing to stop the assault.
According to a Facebook post by Human’s fiancée, Delia, the now-viral incident took place on Sunday after the couple left their farm to buy groceries in White River.
She said she posted the information publicly for her own protection after legal advice as they were threatened throughout the ordeal, with their attackers allegedly claiming they would track them down and kill them.
She said none of the police officers tried to stop the men from entering the station.
“My fiancé was assaulted by four men, in full view of police officers, inside the White River police station. Some of these men were armed with firearms,” Delia said.
“As they tried to drag him outside by his head, they told him they were going to shoot him. I thought he was going to be shot. I thought we were both going to be shot.”
On Monday, police spokesperson Brig Leonard Hlathi said the incident was “unfortunate and shows lawlessness on the part of the individuals involved as a police station is not a battleground”.
He said the incident was under investigation and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) had been notified.
“The conduct of the people who were involved in the physical fight is unacceptable and the man who appears in the video being pressed down to the ground is urged to register a criminal case for investigation purposes,” he said.
Hlathi said the district commissioner of Ehlanzeni, Maj-Gen Dianah Mashele, urgently attended to the matter and established a team led by two senior police officers to investigate the matter departmentally and scrutinise the conduct of the officers who were on duty.
“An inquiry has been opened regarding this issue with a view to acquire detailed information. A criminal case of malicious damage to property and crimen injuria has been opened against the man who was pressed down as he is accused of colliding with a vehicle and allegedly uttered racial slurs,” he said.
Opposition parties, social media users react
The DA and FF Plus called for the officers responsible to be investigated and for justice to be served.
“This raises serious questions about who these men are and what, if any, security clearance they may have. The fact that the perpetrators of the assault felt safe enough to commit these crimes inside a police station while the victims of the assault feared for their lives highlights the crisis within the police said DA MP Andrew Whitfield.
“The incident is absolutely unacceptable and the FF Plus will request Ipid to investigate the events, particularly the police officers’ conduct throughout the ordeal,” said FF Plus MP Werner Weber.
On Facebook many users weighed in on the video, expressing different views.
“Something must be done about those police officers and those criminals need to be behind bars. We can’t let this slide,” said Lerato Sharifah Mbuli.
“To be honest, I can’t even watch the videos. It’s disturbing. If we can’t trust the police who can we trust I’m so sorry you went through this horrible ordeal and I hope you sue the police department,” said Carol Helen Smìth.
Dhiren Hunsraj said: “But why do people take on these official vehicles? Just let them drive past you. Slow down if you have to. The further from you and your family these vehicles are, the safer you are - whether they are breaking the law or not. Just make sure they get as far away from you as possible. Don’t try to be a hero.”
“We need drastic action taken against all the officers on duty at the charge office on this day. This proves one is not even safe in police stations. Instead, they will watch you being killed. [Police minister] Bheki Cele must do something,” said Ruth Jones.