What was supposed to be a joyful road trip for Khutjo Sekwaila and his five-month pregnant wife to his graduation at the University of Zululand turned into a nightmarish ordeal for the couple at the hands of alleged gun-wielding drunken cops.
Sekwaila, a production scientist based in Kimberley, was set to graduate with a Master’s degree last week. Their joy turned sour when he was allegedly assaulted and arrested by four allegedly drunk police officers. His crime was refusing to stop when an unmarked car ordered him to do so in the middle of a forest late at night.
Now the Sekwailas have reported the matter to Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and are considering suing Police Minister Bheki Cele, who coincidentally, they [the Sekwailas] were accused of behaving like during their ordeal.
According to a statement submitted at the Kimberley police station, a copy of which City Press has seen, Sekwaila and his wife were driving on the N2 highway in northern KwaZulu-Natal when an unmarked police car with gun-wielding officers tried to stop him in the middle a forest plantation. He ignored the car’s flashing bright lights, who thought were trying to overtake him.
“After which they then came to the side again and this time tried to ram us off the road. I avoided the car and then switched on the hazards lights. They then came back to the side switched on the lights inside the bakkie and put up a gun [that resembles an AK47].
“At this point my wife was hysterical and I instructed her to call 10111 [at 10.47pm]. She told the operator there was an unmarked vehicle with registration No. BVG 570 B chasing after us. It didn’t have any police markings and they’re pointing guns and we’re too scared to stop. She asked the operator if they could dispatch a vehicle to come to our aid.
“The call was cut off but we were then called back from a landline [at 10.50pm]. We suspected it could be hijacking and as a result I tried navigating to the nearest police station instead of stopping in the middle of a dark area at that time of the night, for our own safety,” reads part of the statement.
The Sekwailas raced to the nearest police station in Richards Bay with the unmarked car hot in pursuit. It caught up with them at the Richard Bay police parking lot.
“Constable Mthethwa [as I found out later] grabbed me by the neck said ‘ucabanga khuthi uBheki Cele’ (you think you as are Bheki Cele). He was joined by a Constable Mkize and Constable Ndlovu in slapping and beating me. I managed to get into the CSC [Client Service Centre] counter where we found three officers inside working behind the counter.
“I put my hands up but the officers from the unmarked vehicle then followed me and started manhandling me again. None of the officers behind the counter moved or said anything; they just looked at the assault while it happened. I then saw the fourth officer, Constable Ndlovu [Sakhile] slap my wife as he tried to aggressively take my cellphone from her. This all happened inside the station in full view of the other three officers that we found inside the station,” the statement reads.
City Press has also seen a video of the violent confrontation that happened inside the police station, with Sekwaila raising his hands. The video ends with shocking screams of the pregnant woman who is seemingly being assaulted after being threatened with arrest.
According to the statements both were arrested, the cellphone confiscated, and an attempt to delete the video failed because the Sekwailas refused to give them the password.
The statement also details how the four police officers were reeking of alcohol when they assaulted and arrested the couple.
According to the charge sheets, Sekwaila’s wife was charged with obstruction of justice for “taking a video while the police were trying to arrest the accused” while he was charged with drunken driving as well as obstruction of justice.
Sekwaila confirmed to City Press that they plan to sue the police for their ordeal. He referred further questions to his lawyer, Chris Gasarasi.
Gasarasi said he was preparing to have the charges against his clients dropped before considering action against the police.
KwaZulu-Natal police spokesperson Brigadier Jay Naicker confirmed that a case had been opened by the couple.
“An assault case was opened at Kimberley and it was registered and transferred to Richards Bay where the alleged incident took place. An electronic copy of the docket was received yesterday [Thursday] at Richards Bay.
“The docket will be transferred to Ipid for investigation as the allegations are against police officers. The complainants in this matter were arrested on drunk driving and other charges. Further questions regarding this matter should be referred to Ipid once they have received the docket,” he said.
Ipid spokesperson Moses Dlamini said they had not yet received the complaint but would be following up the matter with the SA Police Service.