Police harassed us ‘because we are black’, city men allege

2011-03-07 00:00

A GROUP of four young men from Imbali claim they were insulted, assaulted and held at gunpoint by police who searched their car, allegedly telling them it is “just because you are black”.

Sibusiso Mtshali said he was slapped in the face when he asked what they had done wrong.

Mtshali, who is a plumber, said the group stopped at Polly Shortts Spar at Mkondeni to buy food and alcohol on the way to a job in Lynfield Park at the weekend.

He told The Witness that while he was parked near the shop, he noticed a policeman, who was using a private car, looking inside the group’s Toyota Tazz.

He said: “While we were inside the shop, I could see him inspecting the car inside and out, but did not take any offence. When we got into the car, preparing to set off, [the policeman] also got in his car and followed us to the Murray Road robots,” said Mtshali.

He said they decided to use another route, but the policeman continued to follow them.

“At the entrance of Lynfield Park, there was a group of about four police, who were already waiting there, two of whom were wearing uniform.”

Mtshali said the police told them to get out of the car one by one and they started inspecting the car inside and out, opening the boot and checking beneath seat covers.

He said the officers asked him to produce his driver’s licence and found two licence cards, one being a public driver’s permit that he applied for recently.

He said the officers asked why the signatures on the cards looked different, and he told them to contact the Mkondeni vehicle testing station if they doubted the legality of the licences.

“While they searched my pockets, my three friends had guns pointed at them and when we asked what we had done, one policeman said, ‘just because you are black’.

“It seemed that I was infuriating them even more by pleading to them to let us go as we had not done anything.

One [policeman] slapped me on my face. He told me to leave Pietermaritzburg and go to Pinetown since my car’s registration plate was NPN,” he said.

Mtshali said his friends were drinking, but he was not. He said: “If at least I was also drinking or obstructing traffic, we would have understood, but we did nothing.

“You could see that they were having a field day on our misery. Yesterday highlighted [for us] how many rotten potatoes there are within the police force, those who abuse the innocent just because they think they are above the law.”

Thulani Nxumalo, who was also in the car said, “We believe that this is a racial thing as we never did anything wrong.

“While they pointed their guns at us, we could not even answer them back.”

A case of assault and discrimination was opened at Camperdown police station.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan said: “A case of common assault was opened.”

Jeevan said that at this stage it is not know which police officers were involved, and the Camperdown station commissioner has undertaken to make a thorough investigation.

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