Mashatile was in VIP convoy but did not witness assault — Bheki Cele

16 August 2023 - 15:56
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Police minister Bheki Cele. File photo.
Police minister Bheki Cele. File photo.
Image: Alaister Russell

Police minister Bheki Cele has confirmed that Deputy President Paul Mashatile was part of the convoy when members of his VIP protection allegedly assaulted motorists in Gauteng last month. 

But Mashatile was not on the crime scene and did not witness the incident, Cele said. 

The convoy of the deputy president normally has seven cars — six from the SAPS and one from the SANDF, which is a medical kind of a car,” said Cele. “The deputy president was in the convoy but not on the crime scene where two of his cars pulled off to deal with that matter. 

“Seven cars, two pulled off, which means five continued and indeed it can be explained [in the disciplinary process] or in court what was the effect of them pulling off and what made them pull off when the rest of the convoy was driving forward,” said Cele. 

He said Mashatile was informed only later, when already at home, about what had happened. 

Mashatile’s rifle-waving state bodyguards were caught on camera assaulting three men on the N1 highway last month. The video went viral on social media and the offending officers have been arrested and charged. 

Cele appeared with police managers and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) before parliament’s police portfolio committee to account for their respective investigations of the incident. 

From the onset, both organisations warned they would be thin on information as the matter was before the court, with Cele appealing that the meeting should not be used as a platform to “try the case and answer the questions of the court”.

He told MPs the negative incident had put the police on the back foot. He said he had noted the criticism against him for not commenting on the matter but defended himself, saying he had been out of the country when the news broke, causing public outcry. 

Considering comments from other government leaders including Mashatile, Ipid and the police, there was not much for him to add at the time, said Cele. 

“There was nothing new that one would have come up with except filling the gaps, as one has filled the gaps in calling for the police to be co-operative and doing what they are supposed to do.” 

He defended the police against MPs, who claimed that police brutality was ingrained in the police. 

“There is no culture of impunity as raised by [DA MP Andrew Whitfield] within the SAPS. There are problems where [certain] members go wayward, like in all organisations.”

Police national commissioner Gen Fannie Masemola also clarified that even if Mashatile was not in the convoy, the vehicles move together at the same speed. 

“A convoy remains a convoy and it moves as a convoy, whether the principal is present or not. A convoy remains and moves the same because if there is a change in movement, then you will be [spoiling] the security element by indicating whether the principal is there or not,” he said.

There were questions after the incident on why the protectors were driving in a convoy if Mashatile was not part of it. Initially his office could not confirm whether Mashatile was part of the convoy when the incident happened. 

On why it took so long to arrest the eight protection officers, Ipid’s chief investigator Osborne Khanyi explained that they could not have acted on the basis of a leaked video but had to conduct their own investigation, including establishing the authenticity of the video. 

“You can’t take a decision based on what you see at face value. You need to go deeper and do your investigation, which involves confirming and visiting the crime scene, interviewing witnesses, supporting the allegation of assault through medical reports, getting statements from medical practitioners on the injuries ... and so on. 

“If we acted based on the video that was circulating and took the suspects to court, the court would have struck the matter off the roll and that would be a travesty of justice. It became important to gather information, which is a process.” 

Khanyi said Ipid managed to get statements from alleged victims and has guaranteed them their safety. They, in turn, have not only given statements but are willing to go to court and give evidence. 

The eight VIP officers are charged with assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property and pointing firearms. They were granted bail this month and are expected to appear in court next month. 


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