NZ mission ‘sorry’ over SA journo

2011-09-26 14:34

New Zealand’s High Commission in Pretoria said today it was “sorry” to hear a South African rugby journalist was detained in the town of Taupo.

“The New Zealand High Commission is very sorry to learn about the inconvenience suffered by rugby journalist Mr Vata Ngobeni in Taupo,” it said in a short statement.

Ngobeni could lodge a formal complaint with New Zealand’s Independent Police Conduct Authority at www.ipca.govt.nz.

“We have referred the matter to the New Zealand authorities for further investigation and/or comment,” the commission said.

Ngobeni was detained by police in the early hours of Monday because they thought he was a drug dealer. He is journalist for the Pretoria News and rugby analyst for the SA Broadcasting Corporation.

At the time of his arrest, he was the only black in the local pub, a Sapa journalist travelling with him said.

Ngobeni was taken to a police station and searched. He had to remove items of clothing.

“I have never been so embarrassed in my life,” said Ngobeni, who was released shortly after he was searched.

“I have never experienced this kind of treatment in all my travels around the world, so to be singled out as a common criminal in front of so many people is something I will never forget.”

When police approached him, Ngobeni tried to explain he was a journalist on tour covering the Springboks – in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup – for television, radio and his newspaper.

An officer responded by saying Ngobeni fitted the profile of a drug dealer, and that a search had to be conducted at a local police station. Police officers on the scene said they were following “standard procedure”.

Taupo residents who witnessed the scene expressed sympathy for Ngobeni.

“There are some idiots in the pig factory (police station) in this town,” said an elderly man.

Another commented “you will find that the police pick up all the... old cars with black drivers”.

Ngobeni later received an apology from police, but said: “I won’t be visiting Taupo again, that is for sure.”

Ngobeni said he had never before seen the inside of a police station, or been asked to get into a police vehicle in front of a crowd of people. It was not immediately clear whether Ngobeni would lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

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