The South African Federation of Trade Unions is disgusted by the conduct of Police Minister Fikile Mbalula in Cape Town on Friday 6 October.
In a desperate attempt to try to pretend that he is acting rather then just talking about the appalling levels of crime in the city, he presided over the ‘arrest’ of ten entirely innocent people and subjected them to brutal ill treatment.
Police detained eight men – and later another two – who were trussed up with cable ties, and made to lie on the ground for three hours while police sent out a press release and pictures about their “protracted investigation”, claiming they had “pounced” on a vehicle and arrested suspects linked to weekend shootings in Marikana, in Cape Town, in which 11 people were killed.
Then Mbalula himself arrived at the scene and later posted pictures of the trussed men on Twitter and boasted to his million Twitter followers about the “midnight criminal space shake up”.
But it turned out that the “suspects”, were all members of a family transporting a coffin containing a dead relative to his funeral in the Eastern Cape and all were released without charge and freed on Sunday night.
The men were detained at Cape Town Central police station over the weekend, where they claim they were beaten by the police and labelled “killers”. They are raising money for a lawyer and are vowing to sue the police for wrongful arrest and humiliation.
“All this time we were lying down, cuffed. Our family is also upset that the coffin was opened and searched,” Zukisa Xakabantu told The Times. He was close to tears as he told of his humiliation when the police were adamant that he was one of the twins who are terrorising Marikana.
“I have no issues with the police stopping people and searching, or even detaining them. But the way they treated me was totally inhumane and humiliating. The policemen undressed me in front of women for them to determine that I was not the twin they were looking for. Apparently the twin is uncircumcised and I am. That devastated me”.
The group missed the funeral and lost the money they paid for transport. “I don’t know what is going to happen at work,” said Luvo Nzulu, a Cape Town security guard. “We don’t feel safe in our community. We are worried that people have already labelled us tsotsis and might target us. Those who know us will understand our situation but those who live in Marikana might kill us.”
What makes the minster’s conduct even worse is that his tweet was published after the police press statement on the arrests had been withdrawn.
SAFTU has already condemned Mbalula’s inflammatory and vulgar remarks to police members – “to do what they were notorious for‚ kicking down doors and dishing out dizzying blows”‚ and assured them that he would deal with the courts… “Even if you do not have a warrant of arrest‚ slap them. Break the law progressively and let me worry about court cases”.
As we said, these words show that he is sinking to the same level of morality as the violent criminals he is attacking and legitimizing the very lawlessness that he is supposed to be fighting. If even the police can freely “break the law progressively” and “dish our dizzying blows” they become part of the problem of crime rather than the solution.
These events in Cape Town justify SAFTU’s warning in the most outrageous fashion – that some police would take his comments literally, and this is exactly what happened. They did break the law, and far from condemning them, the Minister rushed to congratulate them on a blatantly illegal and criminal attack on innocent people, without a shred of evidence.
His conduct has done immense damage to the standing of the police, especially in the poorest communities where the police are already perceived to be ineffective and in some areas of even being in the pocket of criminals.
The Minister’s remarks and his conduct will reinforce all these negative perceptions and the only ones celebrating will be the criminal gangs. His term of office has been a disaster. He must resign immediately and it he refuses he must be dismissed! The only crisis we face is that person who hired him is himself not fit to be in office.