Cape Town: A video that outraged South Africans and brought more attention to the nation's issues with police brutality showed armed plainclothes officers dragging a man out of a car and stomping on his head until he lay motionless.
According to a statement from his office on Tuesday, the officers are a part of the security detail escorting Deputy President Paul Mashatile.
The officers can be seen dragging the man across the road in the weekend incident's video, kicking and stomping on his head and body, and some of them are seen brandishing rifles. The victim, who appears to have been kicked unconscious, now lies motionless on his back. Another man, who is protecting himself by holding his hands over his head, is seen getting kicked by the officers.
The police protection unit, also referred to as the "blue light brigade" in South Africa, is known for using excessive force. The unit has a reputation for moving quickly down highways and reacting forcefully if other motorists fail to notice the small blue sirens in their vehicles and move out of the way in a timely manner.
The incident occurred in Johannesburg, according to a statement from Mashatile's office, which also stated that he "abhors any unnecessary use of force, particularly against unarmed civilians."
Someone in a different car who wasn't involved in the incident recorded the video and posted it to Twitter.
Following the incident, the officers—members of a specialised police unit tasked with safeguarding VIPs and South African politicians—board two black SUVs and leave.
In the aftermath, a third man can be seen on the video lying by the side of the road. It's unclear if he was also physically abused. During the incident, a woman can be seen exiting the vehicle while raising her hands in the air.
The video depicts at least three of the seven police officers stomping and kicking the two men, some of whom were dressed in suits. The third officer is holding a pistol while the other two officers seen kicking the men are holding rifles.
Brig. Athlenda Mathe, the national police spokeswoman, said in a statement on Tuesday that the police officers have been identified "and will be subjected to internal processes."
These are apparently VIP protection cops…happened in JHB. pic.twitter.com/fgSNNpyK7s— Yusuf Abramjee (@Abramjee) July 3, 2023
According to Mathe, police had also "successfully traced the victims of this incident," and they were currently being interrogated.
The 45-second long video was also uploaded by Mathe to her Twitter account. "Police officers are meant to uphold and protect the fundamental rights of every person," she wrote in a previous tweet. Such conduct is not acceptable.
Since the car was already stopped when the video begins, it is unclear what caused the incident.
Police brutality is a problem in South Africa, with the most infamous recent incident occurring in 2012 when police opened fire on 34 miners with assault rifles while they were on strike over wages and working conditions. In 2020, soldiers killed a man at his home while police looked on in another high-profile incident.
In the fiscal year 2021–2022, the independent body that handles police misconduct looked into 3,407 cases of unlawful assault by officers, or nearly 10 cases per day.