MINISTER MTHETHWA REITERATES HIS COMMITMENT TO WORK WITH HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION
We are all equal before the law; neither a media organization nor any individual is superior
CAPE TOWN – 11 March 2011. The Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa today once again reiterated his utmost and unequivocal respect for all institutions that are geared towards the protection and promotion of human rights in South Africa.
The Minister’s assurance comes in the wake of this morning’s story in the Mail & Guardian newspaper headlined “Mthethwa shows HRC the finger” which he views as misleading and devoid of the truth. The article states that he refused repeated requests by the Human Rights Commission (HRC) to respond in detail to the arrest of Chumani Maxwele, who claims he was abused by police after being falsely accused of pointing a finger at President Jacob Zuma’s VIP protection unit in Cape Town last year.
The Ministry received written a communiqué from the HRC last year, informing us that they are investigating the matter on behalf of Mr Maxwele. We acknowledged and gave an undertaking to cooperate with the HRC in their investigations. It also needs to be made clear that the HRC requested a clarification from the Minister, not an apology on the matter, something the Mail & Guardian wittingly or unwittingly ignored in the article.
While this process was unfolding, Mr Maxwele’s lawyer publicly through the media indicated that they intend to file a civil case against the police. In preparation of our response to the HRC, we took into cognisance the lawyer’s comments because any premature remarks on our part, would have jeopardised the fairness of the case.
The Constitution is crystal clear on such matters: Mr Maxwele, just like any citizen of the Republic has a right to a fair hearing if he believes his rights were violated. In addition any citizen who approaches the HRC to investigate a complaint, that individual does not waiver his or her rights to approach any court of law. It would have been improper for the Ministry to suddenly go on public tirade via media platforms when parties representing him have indicated certain legal routes.
Minister Mthethwa’s interaction with the HRC has always been professional and cordial. A recent cooperation was during last year’s so-called xenophobic violence; wherein he provided comprehensive reports, on time to the HRC, clarifying the Ministry’s role in dealing with this issue. The HRC is on record as having commended the Minister for his proactive approach in dealing with this criminality.
For the record, when police officers are alleged to have abused or broken the law, it is the Ministry’s mandate to objectively investigate the matter/s and where any member is found to have transgressed; appropriate steps such as dismissal, suspension or warning are imposed. However in areas where members have acted according to the law, we shall defend any unjust and misleading accusations levelled against them.
For enquiries, please contact:
Zweli Mnisi, Spokesperson to the Minister of Police 082 045 4024
Issued by the Ministry of Police.