- A South African doctor of South Sudanese origin claims he was choked by TMPD officers while on his way to hospital to assist with a Covid-19 emergency.
- His wife was also apparently assaulted and evidence of the incident on both their phones apparently deleted.
- The doctor, who has lived in SA since the age of 16 after fleeing his war-torn country, is a celebrated medical professional with three medical degrees.
A seasoned pulmonologist who has been working around the clock to help combat Covid-19 has allegedly been throttled and assaulted by Tshwane Metro Police Department (TMPD) officers.
Dr Emmanuel Taban and his wife, a physiotherapist, who both work at Midstream Mediclinic hospital in Tshwane, have claimed that unidentified officers harassed, assaulted and even throttled Taban until he passed out on the R54 on Saturday afternoon.
He said that, while heading to work to urgently assist Covid-19 patients, he was harassed by several officers who were unidentifiable. Taban said his troubles began after he overtook a truck.
"There are two lanes. I was on the right and a truck was on the left, and the road was coming to be one lane. I sped faster in my BMW X5 ahead of the truck."
He said the officers then stopped him.
"I stopped and put my mask on and rolled my window down. [The officer] first spoke to me in Tswana. I heard him asking for my licence. I took it out and he kept talking in Tswana, so I asked if he can speak English because I did not understand."
'You are being arrested'
Taban said the officer then asked him to step out of his car.
"I stepped out and showed him the licence. I told him I am a doctor and wanted to keep some distance from him. Then he told me, you are under arrest. I said for what? He said I went through a solid line and was driving recklessly. I asked if there isn't a fine. He said no, I had to be arrested."
Taban asked if his wife could leave, to which the officers said yes.
"But then he said I must move and started pushing me. My wife got out the car and asked why he was being so aggressive. She said I hadn't done anything. She said they can give me a ticket or arrest me, but there was no reason to push me."
Taban said the officer then allegedly began swearing at his wife, calling her a "whore, saying she sleeps with foreigners". The officer also allegedly asked Taban why he was behaving like a white person.
"My wife was so angry. I asked her to calm down because through this whole thing, his hand was on his gun."
He said the officer began pushing him and his wife "and it got a bit ugly".
"I told him this is not acceptable and then I took my phone and began recording him. Then my wife started recording and it aggravated him more."
The officers then instructed the couple to follow them to Lyttelton police station, Taban said.
"I got in the car and moved a bit. My wife said I should get a picture of the number plate because we don't know where they are going to take us. So, I got out of the car and took a picture of the number plate. Then they said no, you are under arrest."
'Throttled until I passed out'
He said that from that point, he was handcuffed.
"I didn't resist. Then he wanted the phone from my wife. He wrestled my wife down to the ground and from there picked up her phone. Then the other traffic guys got it and they wanted my wife to give them the PIN code. They pushed my wife and were merciless and wanted her to give the PIN. She did and they deleted all the photos."
Taban said that, after seeing his wife assaulted, he realised he needed to preserve his own telephonic evidence of the number plate and other videos. His wife managed to take his phone from his pocket.
"I saw that they had deleted her pictures, so I was trying to get her to send what I had to any of my friends, so at least we still had some evidence."
The officer then asked for his phone and grew frustrated when he could not find it on Taban.
"I told him to check in my pocket, that it was not there. I had given it to my wife who put it between her breasts."
He said his wife then handed over the phone.
"I had to then give them the PIN code, he went through my phone and started deleting everything including the videos I had taken."
Taban said he was taken to Lyttelton police station where he was charged with driving through a solid line, reckless driving and assaulting a police officer.
He said he was horrified at the incident and that TMPD officers could be "so vile".
"I came to this country when I was 16. I am now 42, with a family. I have South African citizenship and have been contributing to helping South Africans. Is this what my children should expect? Is this how they will be treated?"
He said it was unfathomable that the officers were so violent.
"But I will not let this go. I will pursue it, because I do not think it is acceptable. I need to find a way to get the evidence from my phone. I know it can be done."
Dr Shane Kotzé, the general manager of Midstream Mediclinic, said on Saturday the hospital would issue a statement on the matter.
No statement was forthcoming at the time of publishing.
Taban is a highly qualified medical expert who holds three medical degrees. He left the Republic of South Sudan at the age of 16, after his father was killed in the South Sudanese Civil War.
He completed his secondary education with the help of charity groups, including Mercy House, and went on to study medicine at Medunsa.
TMPD spokesperson Isaac Mahamba on Saturday told News24 he would investigate the matter, which was still unfolding when News24 contacted him.
On Sunday, Mahamba said the TMPD was aware of the incident.
"The matter is receiving the necessary attention it deserves internally and we are still to obtain official statements from the members involved," Mahamba said.
"We also encourage the complainant to come forth to officially open a case and statements will also be obtained and the matter will be investigated properly."
Mahamba said the TMPD would report any alleged wrongdoing by its members to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
News24 earlier reported that Mahamba did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. This is incorrect. News24 could not reach Mahamba and a WhatsApp message sent to Mahamba's work cellphone did not go through. Additionally, News24 contacted another police spokesperson on a different matter and mistakenly reported that we had contacted Mahamba. News24 regrets the error and apologises to the TMPD for any embarrassment caused. - Riaan Grobler, duty editor