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‘Problem officers’ in Mashatile’s VIP protection unit likely to get away with slap on wrist, say experts

‘Problem officers’ in Mashatile’s VIP protection unit likely to get away with slap on wrist, say experts
Deputy President Paul Mashatile. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

The vicious assault of motorists by Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security unit has been widely perceived as a continuation of police bullying tactics and abuse of power — but security experts believe the guilty police officers will face light punishment.

For years members of the “blue light brigade” have been accused of aggressive driving and disregarding traffic laws, creating hazardous situations for other road users.

These police protection units, which transport top government officials, are equipped with flashing blue lights and sirens to ease their way through traffic on roads and major highways. They’re regularly accused of speeding, tailgating, overtaking recklessly and intimidating other drivers.

Ten years ago, the SAPS VIP Protection Unit tasked with protecting former president Jacob Zuma was accused of assaulting a journalist outside the late president Nelson Mandela’s home in Houghton, Johannesburg.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Blue Light Brigade: The president’s bullies assault journalist

At times the actions of such police protection units have resulted in serious injuries and fatalities. Incidents that made the headlines include:

  • A 2015 crash involving the then state security minister David Mahlobo’s blue light convoy near Witbank in which a young man was killed;
  • The death of an elderly pedestrian who was run over by a police officer driving a car that was part of  former deputy president David Mabuza’s VIP convoy in May 2017; and
  • A 2011 crash involving former Gauteng local government and housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi’s official vehicle, which left West Rand schoolboy Thomas Ferreira permanently brain-damaged.

In 2022, the Automobile Association (AA) called out the blue light brigade for their bullying tactics, which pose a road safety threat to motorists.

“We noted then, as we do again here, that anecdotal evidence points to members screaming at other motorists, showing their firearms to other motorists to intimidate them, and generally being belligerent when on the road. The incident captured on video is another example of a unit acting above the law,” said AA CEO Willem Groenewald on Tuesday.

A vicious assault

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) announced on Tuesday it is investigating allegations of assault against members of the SAPS’s Protection and Security Services (PSS) unit who are part of Deputy President Paul Mashatile’s security detail after a video circulated showing armed officers attacking three civilians on what appeared to be the N1 highway on Monday.

Read more in Daily Maverick: IPID to probe vicious assault on motorists by Paul Mashatile’s security unit as rage ignites across SA

The video depicted armed members of the unit — who were driving a black BMW — dragging a person to the edge of the highway before punching and kicking him on the ground. According to reports, the victims were military trainees and they gave statements to Ipid on Tuesday.

SAPS has stated that the officers involved will be subject to “internal processes”. According to a report, the SAPS officers involved have been issued with notices of suspension.

Lack of accountability

“What should happen now is that the offending officers should be immediately suspended, their firearms taken away and SAPS institutes an ‘expeditious’ disciplinary process that’s allowed for — in the 2016 SAPS disciplinary regulations — exactly these kinds of cases, where the police have acted criminally in a high-profile incident,” said Gareth Newham, a policy expert at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS).

“In a case like this, they should get an independent chairperson for the disciplinary process because the disciplinary process of the police has deteriorated substantially over the five years to a point that it is hardly holding police officials accountable.

“The system is operating at a much lower capability — the most likely outcome of these disciplinary hearings are written or verbal warnings and the least [frequent] outcome is dismissal recommendations.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Paul Mashatile VIP assault highlights police protection an expensive excuse for thuggery and vanity

David Bruce, an independent researcher on policing and an ISS consultant, said, “Whatever process is implemented, it would seem that on the basis of the evidence available, some of the officers would face a high risk of being found guilty of misconduct.

“One would like to think that, if found guilty, they would be dismissed, as this kind of behaviour is clearly not appropriate for someone who is a member of the SAPS. However, the SAPS frequently imposes very light sanctions on members who are found guilty of assault, and even assault [with intent to do] grievous bodily harm.”



He continued: “A further question relates to what is likely to be the role of Ipid. The SAPS might choose to ‘hand the matter over’ to Ipid, in which case Ipid will be responsible both for making recommendations on a disciplinary process and on possible criminal charges.

“This is unlikely to make much of a difference to the eventual outcome. If one believes that there is a good chance of a guilty finding against some of the members, the court would also be likely to impose a very light sanction.”

According to research from Viewfinder, an accountability journalism project, only a fraction of cases against police that are reported to Ipid result in dismissals or criminal convictions.

Read more in Daily Maverick: New police accountability tracker casts intense light on brutality of officers

Overhauling SAPS

Bruce says relying on disciplinary and criminal processes against individual police officers to address abuse is largely ineffective. He said if the police were serious about addressing this kind of behaviour it would replace the divisional PPS commissioner in charge of the VIP protection unit and conduct a review of the conduct of the members implicated in this case.

“Members who are involved in this kind of egregious violence are typical ‘problem officers’ who are repeatedly linked to assaults and other abuses. The SAPS approach to dealing with these members should be based on a broader assessment of their conduct, and not just this single incident,” he said. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Just imagine if white people had done this…

    How is this any better?

    • Garth Kruger says:

      if this had happened before ’94 it would be front page news all over the world. Now it doesn’t even rate a mention. A shrug of the shoulders and “well it’s Africa what do you expect ?” Move on folks nothing to see here.

      Luckily we have the Freedom Charter and the best constitution on the world.


    • G M says:

      Considering our history I think it’s entirely poor form to try to make a white/black comparison in this case. If you think this kind of thing didn’t happen repeatedly to innocent people sans ANY consequences in the past, you’re being willfully blind.
      This has nothing to do with race. This is criminal behaviour and should be treated as such.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        For heavens sake. You remind me of Basil Fawlty and “don’t mention the war”. Get a grip man.

        There are the worst kind of double standards at play here, and it is time as a society for us all to look the truth straight in the eye.
        And the truth is that race is now simply a tool used by African politicians in order to gain easy votes – and it is used to great effect; and at the cost of everyone in our country.

        And this while they are in parallel perpetuating the violent abuses against the citizens of this country, particularly the poor and uneducated. It’s criminal.

        So get off your apologist horse and try looking at now and maybe you will help wake people up. Which is ahat we should all be doing as hard as we can.

      • Trenton Carr says:

        You read that wrong, forget about the past in this context, what would have happened if the attackers were white TODAY. they would have been crucified, these numbnuts? Slap on the wrist, paid holiday, back on the job when the next shitstorm hits media.

    • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

      This has nothing to do with race. Do not make it so.

    • Nwabisa Muthige says:

      Honestly I don’t understand why this is now about race?? What these guys did was horrible abuse of power and they must be held responsible and face serious consequences for what they’ve done to those seemingly defenceless victims. Let’s focus on the core issue here and not get side tracked with unwarranted speculations.

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        It’s about hypocracy and double standards. Politicians today love to harp on about racism when it suits them as though white people are somehow “worse” than other races, while at the same time doing exactly the same things that they accuse white people of doing. It is blatantly obvious to anyone with a brain cell – and frankly I’m sick of it.

        It is time for Africans to stop white bashing and introspect honestly. We are all people – there are good and bad. Sadly a lot of the bad run our country today, and they are empowered by ignorance and pointless destructive racial bias that they actively encourage – which is why I’m drawing attention to it and I will continue to do so. Wake up South Africa.

  • rmrobinson says:

    I utterly condemn what happened. And I ask myself: what would have happened, had the perpetrators been white? Would the world then have cared? Would we then have had marches across the globe, proclaiming ‘Black Lives Matter’?. Why do Black Lives not Matter when Blacks do the killing, the attacks, the disregard for life through criminal medical negligence, through refusal to provide proper education? Why is no one marching for that or, even better, JUST DO IT.

    • Nwabisa Muthige says:

      Again, what happened in this assault was sheer brutality and barbaric and must be condemned worldwide. The Black Lives Matter movement took place to bring attention to the incessant prevalence of violence by white people , mainly the police , against blacks. This had to be highlighted at a large scale in proportion to the level of violence unleashed against black people, especially in America, as they were specifically targeted.

      This does not mean other lives don’t matter, all life matters, but this (racial profiling and targeted murder of black people) needed specific mention and attention. Hopefully there’s been some improvement .

      • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

        I have no doubt that people of all races, all sizes and all genders around the world have suffered unfairness from both people of their race, people not of their race and people of their gender and people not of their gender.

        My question is different and is: Why do black lives matter MORE when white people are involved?

  • roland davies says:

    The overwhelming number of victims of state brutality are black South Africans the very same people who vote and keep this brutal government in place

  • Peter Pyke says:

    The answer is simple. Any individual applying for a firearm licence would be rejected on basis of the assault which took place. Therefore as minimum, deny them firearm licenses. This will automatically prevent their employment in any security situation.

    • Alec Cooper says:

      I would guess for that to apply the person would have to be found guilty of assault, or worse, in a court of law.

      • Peter Pyke says:

        If you apply for a firearm licence they interview your wife and neighbours to see if you have violent tendencies. If so you will be denied a licence!

  • Bill Gild says:

    The barbarity witnessed in the video ought to send a chill through every South African.

  • Jennifer Hughes says:

    Disgusting. This is why I don’t teach my children to ask a police officer for help. I’ve had to teach them to look elsewhere, I’ve had to teach my four- and six-year-old to be wary of the very people who are supposed to keep them safe.

  • Tony Reilly says:

    Guilty of “misconduct” ? …. You must be kidding. Why not a simple arrest for attempted murder ? Stuff the internal disciplinary process…it’s nothing but a sham.

  • Andrew Blaine says:

    In an Animal Farm context the dogs were protecting the management pigs!

  • James Francis says:

    So the Hawks are even funded less than the VIP squads? Can the ANC tell me again how it takes crime seriously?

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    In any functioning democratic country these shocking individuals would have been in court within 24 hours and dealt with swiftly via applicable laws. Not in SA; they will b suspended on full pay, sit at home gloating for six months and then quietly reinstated. It is beyond logic but that too is nowhere to be found in the daily ANC madness smashing our country to pieces!!!

  • Andre Louw says:

    When police assault a citizen they face possible suspension When any citizen is guilty of the same they face criminal charge and conviction and are sent to jail. Justice works in so many different ways in this troubled land of ours.

  • William Kelly says:

    Not good enough. They need to be gone. Immediately. End of.

  • Johan says:

    What the protection unit does is just a reflection of the attitude of the politician they “protect”.

    “Protect” is in inverted commas because their main function is actually not protection but to act as praise singers and projectors of power for the VIP.

    Same reason for the excessive security detail that accompanied Ramaphosa on his Ukraine-Russia trip.

  • Anthony Barker says:

    I read all the comments before typing. Simple option VOTE ANC OUT in 2024. Get rid of these thugs and their thieving bosses.

  • Catherine Bacher says:

    I would like to know what provoked such an attack. For surely there is nothing that can justify such brutality. And what of the victims? Especially the man who was left motionless on the ground.

  • Margaret Harris says:

    If I were a passenger in a vehicle driving so dangerously I would intervene. The ministry must bear equal blame for allowing, therefore condoning, the behavior of his drivers and bodyguards. He and all the other ministers deserve a slap on the wrist and a reminder that bad and angry driving puts their lives in danger too.

  • idnankin says:

    So the guilty police officers will get a slap on the wrist and this kind of behaviour will continue unabated.

  • André Pelser says:

    If it is true that Mashatile was present, why did he not intervene? Does his lack of intervention indicate that he condones such behaviour? No statement by his office? Or does his lack of action indicate approval of such violent “protection”, facilitation of right of way?
    The more one hears and sees about Mashatile the more concerned one is about his leadership role in South Africa. Clearly he is not a democrat, and his lifestyle and associations with alleged criminal elements are not what one would want for a deputy-president, much less a president.
    SA cannot afford such people given the powers vested in the presidency – curtailment of these powers needs urgent attention, in the wrong hands they can wreak even more destruction of our country than Zuma and his cadres.
    President Ramaphosa is clearly a lame duck, controlled by Mantashe and others, but having a Mantashe ally in the presidency is a prospect too “ghastly to contemplate”.
    This seems to be an inevitable prospect, which will be made worse if the ANC turns to the EFF to cling onto power.
    Whichever way to look at it, a continuation of ANC rule after the 2024 election does not bode well for Mzansi.

    • Anne De Wet says:

      There is little doubt that the ANC will turn to the EFF if the 2024 election goes against them. And then we can expect big, BIG, problems. Race problems of today will look like a Sunday School picnic! (Do they still have such things?)

  • David Tuer says:

    Presumably Mashatile was in the car, why didn’t he stop this assault?

  • David Amato says:

    These guys are always in a rush, but seem to get nothing done.

    • Gazeley Walker says:

      And very rarely, or if ever, arrive at their appointment on time. Show me one ANC function that has started on time. So why the rush?

  • Marko V says:

    Our state is run by the ANC mafia. This is what they are and how they behave. We don’t have a real government by any world standard.
    This is what the majority population of SA want it seems, as they keep voting them into power.

  • andrea96 says:

    What a farce. Politicians trying to create admiration for themselves by spending tax payer money on big cars and blue lights, just come across as the usual dross one expects in Africa.
    The behavior of these retards is inexcusable. They should be imprisoned. My sympathy to the victims. One hopes any thought of voting anc in 2024, will be changed. We don’t want thugs on our streets.

  • Glenn Varrie says:

    The old adage that a country gets the government it deserves has never been as relevant as it is in South Africa today. Keep putting this criminal cabal into power and this will continue unabated . It`s time for South Africans to stop acting shocked by this behaviour , either change the ruling party or accept this as normal.

  • Steve Stevens says:

    “Once, during an interview with Carte Blance, Mandela boyishly chuckled when he mentioned Mugabe’s excessive motorcade. In fact, in Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s motorcade, which consists of numerous policemen on motorcycles and in vehicles, as well as army personnel with automatic weapons, has a notorious reputation. Other than causing numerous accidents, people have reportedly been assaulted for allegedly not stopping completely when the motorcade is close by. There are also allegations of murder against members of Mugabe’s motorcade.”

  • Sandy Bezuidenhout says:

    If the principal, Mashatile, was not in the vehicles or convoy why were they speeding?

  • Loreen Webber says:

    What about the victims? Let’s focus on them instead of the same old repetative moaning. The man lying on the ground looked badly injured. Hope they received the necessary medical care.

  • Dario Tanziani says:

    We can rant as much as we like. At the end of the day the thugs in power don’t care and just have a good laugh and another JW Blue at our expense.

  • Jurie Welman says:

    A couple of things comes to mind
    Why are some people above the law? Where in our constitution is that provided for?
    These guys are gun carrying people and clearly not qualified to carry a firearm. this competency and licenses should be revoked.
    What about a private prosecution?
    Oscar Pistorius was sent to jail in terms of the legal principle dolus eventualis. All these VIP’s should foresee that this behaviour, with a violent history, will repeat itself. when will they be brought to book in their own, private capacity?

  • Colleen Dardagan says:

    Could the victims not bring a charge against these guys though?

  • Jon Quirk says:

    It is the same utter contempt for ordinary citizens that shapes and forms the ANC leadership mentality.

    Mr President, you know of course, but high time you acted. Your Augean stables stink to high hell and time you properly had a major clean-out and overhaul.

    • winston.popsandogies says:

      Mr Mashatile do you really want these people around you ? isn,t it just a little embarrassing ? actually I am afraid you can not be embarrassed at all and that sir ,is a problem.

      • Anne De Wet says:

        Do we really want people like Mashatile and his ilk around us and more importantly, do we want Mashatile and Co. in the governing seats?

  • Ron Ron says:

    There’s a word that sums it all up: Impunity. It defines both the politicians and their lackeys.

  • Rae Earl says:

    What was Paul Mashatile’s role in this? He apparently wasn’t in the convoy when this took place. So, why were these monsters in uniform in such a hurry? Had Mashatile requested them to get to him urgently? Were they in fact even on active security duty when they beat these youngsters up? The lawless behaviour of most ANC cabinet ministers is manifested in their total disregard of the rules of the road when comfortably settled in their luxury vehicles. They encourage their drivers and security personnel to speed and drive recklessly because, as usual, they have no concept of what it means to be on time.

  • Brian Doyle says:

    In this instance race does not matter. It is assault and the offenders should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as well as being fired from their job. Hopefully somebody or organisation takes this further

  • Neil Parker says:

    We are just living in a Mafia state with a Mafia mentality. Otherwise useless politicians with hyper-inflated egos. I am going to say very bluntly I do not recall any “blue light brigade” nonsense pre 1994. And here’s what I find after googling “What car did Ian Smith drive ?”

    I think it was something like a Morris Minor, but within Salisbury he would usually just ride his bicycle to work and back because of the fuel rationing

    I wouldn’t be blaming the cops too much – it is their political mentors who should be setting the example but in reality are appallingly pathetic as persons. Small wonder we had the fiasco at Warsaw airport.

    • Ron Ron says:

      I remember him having a black Mercedes sedan at a stage, probably 1976 or thereabouts. He was shopping at Delice in Chisipite for bread and milk – I stood behind him in the queue thinking he looked vaguely familiar. He was apparently entirely on his own! Just imagine one of the current crop waiting his turn in a queue.

  • Bruce Hutchison says:

    No doubt that these so called “police” are nothing but a bunch of primitive brutal idiots but their behaviour is unfortunately heavily influenced by the gangster style behaviour of those they are appointed to protect. South Africa’s loss of moral fibre amongst its civil services and elected officials is just another matter totally destroyed by the ANC. One cannot help but wonder what Nelson Mandela would have to say about all this destruction caused by “his” ANC.

  • Ian McClure says:

    When one has a president who makes statement about dealing with ” whites “(sic) with the analogy of turning up the water temperature on frogs in a pot of water ( to make them jump out), this does not make very comforting viewing . May be coincidental. Just saying .

  • Ritey roo roo says:

    Well, the Poles put them in their place!

  • Mark Cowell says:

    Truth is, like the brutal assault on Collin Khoza by SANDF members (backdropped by SAPS), during Covid, this story will quickly fade in the news haze unless it is repeated everyday front page until answers and accountability are delivered. Keep up the pressure DM and civil society

  • Peter Beckenstrater says:

    If IPID does not sanction these SAPS Officers severely and ensure that the legal process is followed, we the Citizens should open a case through private prosecution and get justice!!! no more playing kids’ games with SAPS

  • Gerrie Pretorius says:

    The anc will most likely offer the victims some cash (and kfc and t-shirt and cap) and everything will be forgotten. No case, no prosecution.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    Yes it is racist , black on black .
    Why have they not been arrested and in jail ?

  • Ernst Paul says:

    Cry the beloved country!

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