Soldiers were victims of Presidential protection police attack

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Three men reportedly thuggishly assaulted by police assigned presidential protection duties are, according to South Africa’s largest military trade union, all currently on the personnel strength of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

Sandu (SA National Defence Union) national secretary Pikkie Greeff confirmed the three, apparently military skills development (MSD) recruits with one a card-carrying union member, were assaulted by protection officers assigned to Deputy President Paul Mashatile, on the N1 highway in the Sandton/Fourways area at the weekend.

Greeff confirmed the incident victims are all in the SANDF. He did not specify which service or unit with some Gauteng news outlets, while not supplying names, reporting them as recruits currently doing a two-year MSD stint. One said further the victims were seeking permission to speak to the media. At the time of publication, the Directorate Corporate Communication (DCC) of the SANDF was still silent on the incident after a video of the assault went viral.

Describing what Sandu was told, Greeff said: “The victims were en route to Pretoria from Johannesburg when a black SUV (sports utility vehicle) appeared next to their vehicle with one of the occupants pointing a firearm. The victim’s vehicle was subsequently boxed in by more SUVs and forced to the left side of the highway. The occupants of the SUVs exited their vehicles, surrounding the victim’s vehicle and attempted to smash their windscreen. On not being successful, they smashed the back window and assaulted the occupants”.

The police officers apparently claimed that the driver of the vehicle tagged the convoy for a long while before it was pushed off the road.

All three assault victims were, according to Greeff, interviewed by IPID (Independent Police Investigative Directorate) and advised “not to engage any SAPS (SA Police Service) officers while the IPID investigation is underway”.

“Sandu agrees with this approach and urges space be given for the investigation to proceed,” he said, adding the union will support the victims as well as condemning “unlawful police brutality”.

Johannesburg daily The Citizen today (Wednesday, 5 July) reported the four protection service police were served with letters of suspension. The newspaper has SAPS Brigadier Athlenda Mathe saying: “In terms of SAPS disciplinary regulations they must provide representations why they should not be suspended under the circumstances. Their representations will be considered and the outcome communicated to them”.

Darren Olivier, Director at African Defence Review, believes, “there’s no possible way to justify these actions, they’re unprofessional, disgusting, and against the law. Whether the vehicle blocked them is irrelevant as there are protocols to handle that safely. The SAPS (South African Police Service) PPS (Presidential Protection Services) is clearly in need of new leadership and serious reform. That it was the deputy president’s security detail makes this worse, as they’re supposed to be second only to the president’s detail in terms of seniority, expertise, and professionalism. They’re the ones setting the example for the rest of SAPS VIP protection”.

Olivier added that the politicians being guarded by these VIP protection officers “are complicit in their behaviour and should be held accountable as well when they mistreat members of the public.”