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LISTEN | Helen Zille opens assault case after being 'frogmarched' out of EC voting station

01 November 2021 - 17:11 By Iavan Pijoos and Herald Correspondent
DA federal chair Helen Zille speaks to residents at Fernwood Park Primary School.
DA federal chair Helen Zille speaks to residents at Fernwood Park Primary School.
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

Police watchdog Ipid is investigating a case of assault against an Eastern Cape police officer who is accused of dragging DA federal council chair Helen Zille out of the Fernwood Park Primary School voting station in Bethelsdorp on Monday.

An internal police report indicated that Zille had opened a case of assault against the police after the incident.

“According to Zille, due to the long queue, she walked down the line asking people to wait,” the report read.

She further stated that when she got to the front of the queue, the ANC observers accused her of canvassing.

The internal report continues that Zille claimed an officer “instructed her to leave the premises and threatened to arrest her and put her in the back of a police vehicle”.

Zille claimed she was “frogmarched” out of the station, and has accused the officer of twisting her arm and pushing her.

“The cellphone that her colleague was using to film the incident was allegedly taken by the officer,” the report states.

Zille opened a case of assault at the Bethelsdorp police station.

Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) spokesperson Grace Langa confirmed that their Eastern Cape office had received a complaint of assault against Zille.

Langa said officers allegedly manhandled Zille.

“The case was brought to our attention [and] allocated an investigator who is trying to get hold of Mrs Helen Zille. Unfortunately, the investigator did not succeed,” Langa said, adding that they hoped they would be able to do so by the end of the day.

“It is also reported that one individual in this incident was taking a video and police took the video away from this person, and it was later returned. This person has also opened a case of theft against those police officers,” said Langa.

In a later update, Langa said that Zille was talking to people around the voting station, and someone “decided to report her to the presiding officer, alleging that she was campaigning at the centre”.

“The presiding officer allegedly requested that she should stop and she should be removed from the area. That's when the police officers approached her and allegedly pushed her out, as well as taking her phone,” said Langa.

The phone belonged to Zille, but was being used by someone else to record the incident, according to information Ipid had received.

Ipid said it had still not been able to contact Zille to get her side of the story, but had left a message for her to contact the watchdog's investigating officer.

“Ipid will continue looking for Mrs Zille and other witnesses. We will investigate this case,” said Langa.

 

Taking to her Facebook page, Zille blamed IEC staff for the incident and for necessitating that she get involved in the queues.

“They were entirely disinterested in resolving the extreme slowness of the voting process and, over the course of several interactions, it was plain that they were only interested in asserting their authority rather than assisting voters.

“After observing the scene, I could see immediately where the holdup was. It was in the slow manual input of voters’ ID numbers into a tablet. I then tried to establish how long the voting would take by timing this interaction on my phone’s stopwatch.

“I positioned myself two meters from where this device was being used to manually capture ID numbers. I did not interfere with a single voter, nor with any officer performing his or her duties. I merely timed the process,” she said.

Zille said when she was told to leave the station, she argued she had the required authorisation to be there.

“At about 12.30pm I returned to Fernwood Park Primary, only to find the queue even longer, and that the double queue system had still not been implemented.

“I told them I was not canvassing, I was urging people to stay in the queue despite their intense frustration at the inordinate delay.

“A burly policeman... approached and before I could say a word, he instructed me to leave. I presented my authorisation, and said I had a right to be there. With that he instructed me to leave, grabbed me and frogmarched me out of the building. I told him to let me go or I would charge him with assault.

“I tried to rip myself free of his grasp but he was very powerful and frogmarched me all the way to the gate. My colleague filmed the last segment of his violence, at which point he lunged over and grabbed her cellphone. She tried to get it back but he turned and went into the building,” she said.

Zille claimed that the delays at the voting station were clearly deliberate, and scores of voters left without voting in what is a DA stronghold — and said this was also the case in other areas.

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