Attorney forced into wet police van
Ingrid Oellermann, The Witness
Pietermaritzburg - An attorney intends to sue police over what he believes was his illegal and “embarrassing” arrest and detention in the back of a police van for half-an-hour because he could not produce his driver’s licence when he was stopped at a roadblock.
But police responded on Friday by claiming that the attorney had been transporting alleged illegal immigrants in his double-cab bakkie.
The attorney, who asked not to be named for professional reasons, is representing one of five accused on trial in the high court for the 2009 robbery and murder of retired university academic Professor Samuel Zondi, 71.
While travelling to work along Greytown Road at 08:05, he was stopped at a roadblock jointly manned by police and traffic officials.
The attorney said he was informed that a police colonel, Paula Usher of Mountain Rise, whom he described as “rude and aggressive”, was in charge of the operation.
When he told her that he had left his driver’s licence at home but that someone could bring it “in five minutes”, she “wouldn’t listen”.
She instructed two traffic officials to detain him in the back of the police van, he said. He joined five other people who were already in the back.
The attorney said the inside was wet and he objected to getting in as he was wearing a suit. The officers wiped the seat with newspaper and he was then made to get in.
One of them apologised to him, but said he had to obey instructions.
He said he was detained for at least half-an-hour before he was released without being fined.
“After my wife came with my licence I still had to wait,” he said.
On the allegation that he was transporting illegal immigrants, the attorney said he had picked up four casual workers at Swapo and was taking them to work when he was stopped at the roadblock.
“The police are using this to cover their backs. I don’t even know them.
“It has nothing to do with the reason for my detention, which was the fact that I didn’t have my driver’s licence on me,” he insisted.
Police spokesperson Lieutenant Joey Jeevan said the attorney was one of many drivers stopped at the vehicle checkpoint. He had been afforded an opportunity to have someone bring him his licence and was released.
Jeevan said he was treated with the same respect and dignity as the other people who were arrested, but it seemed as if he had expected preferential treatment because of the office he holds.
“To compound matters he was allegedly transporting undocumented foreign nationals in his vehicle.
“These men have been detained by the police pending deportation.
“The arresting officer acted within her mandate as a law enforcement officer,” said Jeevan, adding that it is an offence not to possess one’s licence while driving.