Maverick Citizen

TUESDAY EDITORIAL

Paul Mashatile VIP assault highlights police protection an expensive excuse for thuggery and vanity

Paul Mashatile VIP assault highlights police protection an expensive excuse for thuggery and vanity
Members of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s VIP protection unit assault people on the N1 highway in Gauteng on Monday, 3 July. (Photo: Screengrabs from Twitter)

We must ask why most current Cabinet members and MECs need their blue lights. If they are in danger of assault or assassination it’s probably self-inflicted: the result of their involvement with the criminal underworld, in corrupt tender deals and political faction fights. As with access to healthcare, basic education and housing, they should show humility and suffer the consequences of government failures with the rest of us.

Late on Monday night video footage circulated rapidly on social media of members of the South African Police Service’s VIP Protection Unit viciously assaulting three motorists on the N1 Highway near Fourways in Johannesburg. Seven automatic rifle-toting men were caught laying into three motorists and then swaggering like cowboys back to their cars before driving off.

Fortunately the scene was recorded by another brave motorist.

WATCH | Motorist viciously assaulted by members of police’s VIP Unit | News24

The SAPS were unusually swift to react. SAPS spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe issued a statement just before 9pm, admitting that “a preliminary report indicates that the vehicles seen in the video belong to the SAPS and the men seen in the video are SAPS members” and stating that “an internal departmental investigation” was under way. 

The National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Fannie Masemola, is quoted in the statement as saying:

“Members of the SAPS are meant to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of every person and exercise the powers conferred upon them in a responsible and controlled manner. Such action cannot be condoned regardless of the circumstance.” 

Deputy president Paul Mashatile during a visit to Cedara College of Agriculture on 18 May 2023 in Durban, South Africa. Mashatile has finally admitted that his VIP Protection detail assaulted motorists on Monday. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

It has since emerged that these policemen are attached to the security detail of Deputy President Paul Mashatile.

Mashatile said in a statement this morning:

“The Deputy President has become aware of an unfortunate incident involving between members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) who are attached to his protection detail and civilians, which occurred in Johannesburg over the weekend.

The Deputy President appeals to the public to allow the SAPS the necessary space to complete its investigation into the incident and take whatever corrective action is deemed necessary. The Deputy President has full confidence in the SAPS under the leadership of Minister Bheki Cele and the command of General Masemola to do the right thing in this regard.”

The public deserve an apology from Mashatile.

While we might feel grateful that the assault was not covered up (hard to do so under the circumstances), the SAPS’ response is not sufficient. The seven men are easily identifiable: they should be arrested, charged, named publicly and summarily dismissed TODAY. 

But there’s a bigger problem to be confronted here, which we may thank the thug-officers for bringing back to our attention.

According to a parliamentary question answered by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2022, taxpayers are funding VIP protection to the tune of nearly R2-billion a year and rising. Ramaphosa told Parliament that this service is offered to:

“28 ministers, 34 deputy ministers, Parliament Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Parliament Deputy Speaker Lechesa Tsenoli, National Council of Provinces chairperson Amos Masondo and deputy chairperson Sylvia Lucas; as well as nine premiers, nine provincial legislature speakers and their deputies, and 87 MECs.

One wonders who is out to get Mbeki these days and why, if VIP protection is warranted, a single bodyguard won’t suffice?

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo, Constitutional Court justices, judge presidents and the president of the Supreme Court of Appeal also received comprehensive protection.”

This is about the same amount that is spent on land reform.

At a time when fiscal austerity is being imposed by Cabinet on our public health and basic education services, when millions of people are unemployed, and bodies like the NPA fail on key State Capture cases because they are grossly underfunded, this is the embodiment of fruitless and wasteful expenditure the country cannot afford. And which politicians do not deserve. 

South Africa is at war, but the war is not against our VIPs. It’s against us. Criminal intelligence in the SAPS is broken, 25,000 of us are being murdered every year in what one senior NPA official describes as “an organised crime crisis that we are running out of time to fix”.

 

 

Several weeks ago I saw a more benign example of VIP protection in action when guests at the Johannesburg Theatre were inconvenienced by being made to queue to go through metal detectors in the foyer on the night former president Thabo Mbeki decided to go and watch the Drakensberg Boys Choir. 

Did he really need that? One wonders who is out to get Mbeki these days and why, if VIP protection is warranted, a single bodyguard won’t suffice?

These questions point to something deeper. An arrogant, self-serving and self-important political elite who have no sense of shame or accountability.

But we should also ask why most current Cabinet members and MECs need their blue lights? If they are in danger of assault or assassination it’s probably self-inflicted: the result of their involvement with the criminal underworld, in corrupt tender deals and intra-party faction fights. As with access to healthcare, basic education and housing they should show humility and suffer the consequences of government failures with the rest of us. 

While we can accept that VIP protection is required by the President, Chief Justice Zondo and other discrete cases where a minister’s portfolio puts them at risk, that does not justify more than 200 people getting it at R8-million a shot. The truth is, it’s just a perk.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Hail to the thief, fail to the chief — rot sets into SA presidential security service

Why is an MEC more deserving of VIP protection than a chief finance officer in a corruption-vulnerable department? Why did Babita Deokaran and Charl Kinnear not get VIP protection? 

These questions point to something deeper. An arrogant, self-serving and self-important political elite who have no sense of shame or accountability.

At best the VIP protection we taxpayers pay for is an expensive vanity project to massage the egos and smooth the passage of people who are meant to be public servants. At worst, as seen last night and with the Public Protector’s finding against CR’s chief henchman, Wally Rhoode, it’s an excuse for acting above the law, and thuggery. 

Whatever, it’s something we can’t afford financially or democratically. The dismissal of last night’s rogues will be a start and a step in the right direction. We wait with bated breath. DM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Heinrich Heiriss says:

    Was Paul Mashatile in one of the cars while his “bodyguards” were beating up these people? This is an important point we need to know.

    • G M says:

      The current information that is being reported is that no VIP was in the vehicles at the time. My first thought was the same as yours, however on the basis that stopping and having all security exit their vehicles would be a security risk to any present VIP, and probably not security protocol, I am inclined to believe that no VIP was present. If any VIP WAS present, then they should be prosecuted as if they did the face-stomping themselves. This is shocking to see.

    • Andrew Newman says:

      It seems Paul Mashatile was part of the convoy but denies being at the site of the assault.
      Assumably his car carried on driving.

  • Tim Price says:

    Yet another symptom of the criminality in SAPS and the ANC government and yet another reason to be embarrassed as a citizen of this country.

  • The Proven says:

    I remember an old Leon Schuster movie where Helen Zille stepped in for a poor beggar that was being harrassed (it was a stunt) in the background of an interview. Her true colours shone through.

    Paul Machatile’s true colours also shone through, he did not step in. Shamefull!

    • Dhasagan Pillay says:

      “It was a stunt” – makes Ms. Zille’s true colours sound rather nefarious.
      Are you saying that Helen Zille pretended to be a good person? And that Paul Mashatile is not pretending to be a good person?

  • Peter Slingsby says:

    Nothing in our political experience to date has given any of us a single solitary reason to have any confidence whatsoever in Paul Mashatile’s understanding of decency, democracy or human rights, nor his ability to lead this nation as its future president. Just more vain, greedy ANC rubbish hopefully destined for history’s trash can.

  • Mike Blackburn says:

    Likewise we need to ensure that where these thugs are actually required that they work within the confines of the law. This means that they drive at the speed limit, obey the rules of the road etc.
    I have had these clowns make threatening gestures to me for not moving out of the fast lane quickly enough on that same section of the N1. I was doing the speed limit. They were doing significantly more.

    Also, one has to wonder why, if they are always in such a hurry, how they had time to stop and beat up these innocents.

    • PJ B says:

      The raw barbarism entrenched in their DNA shining through. Like a pack of wild dogs unto defenseless prey. As a country we are truly F%$*&ed!

    • D'Esprit Dan says:

      I’ve also had blue light scum waving guns at me driving through the Free State, where some thug in the convoy was on his/her way to an ANC conference in Mangaung. My crime was being stuck behind another vehicle trying to pass a truck in the lane next to us.

    • William Kelly says:

      I think most of us have at some stage or other. I have seen them clear not one but two lanes on the highway for what must have been a bigger muppet than usual to get to wherever it was going. One set of rules for all of us, another set of rules for the muppets.

      • Trudi Schwartz says:

        I was on the N1 Eastern Bypass approaching the R21 interchange when all 6 lanes on the N1 were brought to a complete standstill to allow the President’s motorcade to come onto the the highway from what I presumed was Waterkloof airbase. Now if they had just merged with the traffic as normal, I doubt anybody would have know who was in the main vehicle. Though it was pointing out a sitting duck

  • Richard Bryant says:

    This approach by the ANC big men is the clearest evidence that they have nothing but total contempt for our Constitution. All they want to do is emulate a brutality which comes about with a putin style autocracy which treats its citizens as mere objects through intimidation and torture, in a show to keep them obedient, pliable and fearful. Mashatile is new to the game and just learning the ropes. He called the incident ‘unfortunate’ which is a euphemism for I’m sorry that it was filmed and I’ll make sure that in future, if anyone is caught filming such a scene, they will be treated with similar brutality.

  • Graeme Bird says:

    It’s way past time for blue light protection cops to have their wings clipped. They clearly feel they have the right to act like bullies and the people they protect spend enough time in their company to realise this, so they are equally complicit.

  • Robert Morgan says:

    One would have thought that these Ministers need to be somewhere so quickly would lead to more productivity which in turn would lead to a better run country. However, as any fool knows, Paul and his ilk are only rushing around for one reason, and that is to get their greedy snouts into the next available trough. Election day cannot come quickly enough.

  • Gregory Michael Van Der Krol says:

    MP’s and Politicians act like they are the New Royalty. I think they believe they are Royalty and us mere mortals are just peasants in their way. The less I see of them the better…

  • Beyond Fedup says:

    Mark Heywood has hit the nail on the head – never a truer word spoken. We are a typical Banana Republic with these self-serving and arrogant ministers aka civil servants, who think they are above the law and believe that they can act with total impunity. Very much in the anc DNA! That is what they are at the end of the day, as we taxpayers, finance their lavish, lecherous and outrageous lifestyles. Their sense of entitlement and superiority is astounding!! There is no doubt that the “investigation” is taking place ONLY because it was caught on camera, otherwise it would be swept under the carpet. These cossetted, useless and mostly corpulent halfwits should have no blue lights or bodyguards, they and their families should be made to use public schools/hospitals/transport and the free generators/diesel removed as well. In other words, experience what the majority of the country lives everyday through their corrupt, bumbling, inept and criminal actions/policies. One would then witness how quickly the turnaround would take place!

    • P B M .. says:

      Sergio, it’s exactly the same throughout Africa; the populace have to grovel at the feet of their members of Parliament and stand by watching them enjoy privileges’ that few, if at all any, of their subjects would ever have or could ever afford. And voting the ‘ruling’ party out of office probably will make little difference; no sooner is the replacement governing party in power, and the same greed and disdain for their citizens begins all over again!!

  • Brian Cotter says:

    What has changed since 2013 – DM article – “Members of that unit and the notorious “blue light brigade” have been known to crash into cars, pull guns on motorists who couldn’t move over quickly enough, shoot indiscriminately, knock down kids on motorbikes, shove women onto the ground and threaten to “take out” journalists while breaking their equipment.”

  • Donald Clark says:

    We live in a Banana Republic where all the right noises are being made but no one will ever be held to account…

  • William Kelly says:

    The names BlueBell, Jessie and Pincher leap to mind.
    Seriously. R8M each. Per year?
    I would hope that Alan Winde and the DA set an example and eschew such nonsense. I had tremendous respect for de Lille who at the time was Mayor of CT drove herself around in a Prius.
    It’s very simple. If you are that hated by the people that you need ‘protection’ maybe, just maybe it’s you and not them. Fat chance of that ever sinking in. And we pay for our own protection with our after tax money from precisely the people elected to protect us.
    Disgusting. Fuggem.

    • Mark Gory Gory says:

      Amen. If no vip was in the car, why the need to rip through traffic and terrorise law abiding motorists?
      LOCK. THEM. UP. !!

  • Charles du Sautoy says:

    So, do we now have a new form of protest against an unaccountable government? Anytime we see blue lights approaching we line up in line abreast across all the lanes on the road and slow down to the minimum allowed speed?

  • Alan Paterson says:

    Cyril will surely be shocked! However not much more will happen from an official point of view and it is up to ordinary people to vote out the scum that infest us. But will they?

  • Stratford Canning says:

    It wasn’t an unfortunate incident. It was a despicable and shameful incident!

  • Adam Nosworthy says:

    Completely agree with Mark – this thuggish ZANU-PF type behaviour is totally unacceptable and as citizens we need to ensure that those responsible for the reprehensible attack on young South Africans are instantly dismissed from their positions and charged with assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and sentenced as criminals to serve time in jail! Unless that happens we may as well not all have comments about how assaulted we feel – we need to stand up each and everyone of us and demand that this happens.

  • Greg Simpson says:

    Abuse of power and no understanding of the principle of a civil servant.

  • sl0m0 za says:

    what the blue light brigade needs is an rpg up their tailpipes

  • Blingtofling HD says:

    Thank you Mark Heywood and Daily Maverick for echoing the many voices of the poor, the unemployed and those who depend on state hospitals and schools. And the ordinary citizens of our country. We need the champions for justice, equality and public good, to be the drivers for change in our country. Stand your ground. Continue the fight for media freedom and keeping the public informed. We depend on you!

  • Mark K says:

    Back in the late 80s, PW Botha was buying flowers at the flower sellers’ stand in Rondebosch. He had a mere 2 bodyguards with him and did nothing when I called the Groot Krokodil a racist arsehole to his face.

    Fast forward a little more than a decade, and I meet Education Minister Kader Asmal while we are both waiting in the queue at Pick ‘n Pay, Rondebosch. Not a bodyguard to be seen. Told him quite sternly about how OBE was a stupid policy and would lead to a continuation of Bantu Education. He disagreed politely.

    What are the current lot so afraid of?

    • Michael Hennessy says:

      During the World Summit in Johannesburg in 2002, I was driving on the N1 towards Sandton and I passed the Japanese Minister, who was being driven by his chauffeur in a grand Japanese car with a Japanese flag fluttering on the bonnet. In the middle lane, driving at about 100 km/h. No blue light, no bodyguard. The second largest economy in the world at that stage. No other comment is needed.

  • Y Cato says:

    Excellent editorial from Mark Heywood. But, as one comment indicated, this echoed a similar DM article many years ago. Even if these thugs are brought to book, they will eventually just be redeployed (even after unlikely prison sentences) and will carry on as before. We (the Third Estate) and the press (the Fourth Estate) should take hands to ensure that there is no place to hide for the thugs, the corrupt and the criminally incompetents. I call upon DM to publish regular “What happened since…” and “Where are they now… ” features. These should deal respectively with feedback on ongoing investigations to ensure they’re not swept under the carpet; secondly to track the whereabouts and circumstances of perpetrators to ensure they’re not simply retreaded and redeployed. Train and use some of your readers as citizen reporters to do online investigations and thereby multiply the wonderful efforts of the small number of DM investigative journalists.

    • Paul T says:

      Agreed. What these guys rely on is a turn of the media cycle for us to forget what happened. Please keep shining a light on it and make sure its not swept under the carpet.

  • rmrobinson says:

    They had no compunction about brutally attacking civilians, while being observed by who knows how many passers-by. What happened to that poor victim of this barbarism?

  • Paul Hollick says:

    If this is a “Perk” as Mark writes, shouldn’t they be paying Perks Tax like ordinary citizens?
    If they had to pay the tax on R8M themselves, I wonder how many of them would still want VIP Protection service.

  • Katharine Ambrose says:

    Armed police with a beef against a motorist and his passengers push them to the road side and beat them up. Why? Why didn’t they arrest the “offenders” and take them to a police station to lay charges, or take their details and tell them to report to a police station or or or any one of several non violent options available to them. These aren’t functional police they are rogue thugs.

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    The purpose of a policeman or a police woman at any given time is to be an office of the peace. This means that they must at all times be the adults in the room. Adults don’t bully. Adults diffuse situations. They don’t escalate them. They don’t demand respect for their incompetence. They do thankless jobs, because they are committed to protecting the peace. And understand that calming powder kegs does more in the long run. I cannot stress this enough. Dear Mr. Minister – if you’d like assistance in writing that into the job description – I’m happy to help.

  • Hilary Morris says:

    There are four words in deputy president’s statement that highlight just how dire the situation is. These are “full confidence” “Bheki Cele” and “General Masemola”.
    The helpless outrage felt by those who are witness to this governments lies, corruption, thuggery and incompetence, is going to be further fueled by this “incident”. God help us!

  • Tony Aka Tony says:

    Politicians need to endure the same pains, trials and tribulations as us mere mortals. No special treatment. They need to improve general policing if they want to feel safer, for example. They are public SERVANTS, not demigods with unlimited power and freedom to do as they wish.

  • Irma Kerremans says:

    If the identity of these thugs are known why is the media not naming and shaming them on every TV news channel. Stand up against them!

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