By Chantelle Benjamin
Two weeks after being filmed assaulting an Ivory Park hawker, it appears the four Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD) officers are still on duty, despite a probe being launched into the attack by the metro police’s internal affairs unit.
JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar would not say on Friday whether the officers, accused of assault, had been suspended, saying: “All I can say at the moment is that an investigation is under way.”
The officers were still on duty on Monday 30 April, according to a report by the Citizen newspaper.
A Johannesburg official said footage has been handed over “which will also form part of the investigation”. It appears the footage being referred to is the cellphone footage of the incident which took place on Friday 20 April in Ivory Park.
The identity of the four officers who attacked Andries Ndlovu and Joseph Khumalo, and who are visible in cellphone footage attacking Ndlovu, have been identified, the official told Corruption Watch.
Again Minnaar would also not confirm that their identities were known.
Corruption Watch’s David Lewis said on Friday: “It is outrageous that these four police officers are still on duty. There can be no possible problem identifying them. What does it say to the residents of Ivory Park, or to anyone falling under the jurisdiction of the JMPD?”
Corruption Watch recently released a report that found one in four Johannesburg drivers were asked for a bribe in 2010.
The JMPD has denied bribery is as widespread as the report indicates, suggesting the number is closer to one in 10 motorists, based on complaints. There were 184 complaints laid by members of the public between 2009 and 2011.
Lewis said the report touched on other more “sinister” allegations, such as sexual abuse, theft and intimidation.
“What we have potentially is a rogue police force beating people up in broad daylight, and the officers are entitled to believe they are untouchable because they are still on duty,” he said.
Ndlovu, who was assaulted after he came to the defence of 60-year-old Khumalo, said on Friday that he had opened a case of assault at the Ivory Park police station a few days after the attack.
Corruption Watch has the case number.
Ndlovu, who has sold sweets and cigarettes along Umnotho Drive in Ivory Park since 2002, said JMPD officers often came to the trading area to demand money from vendors. “That day we did not have any money,” he said.
This was confirmed by another vendor in the area.
Ndlovu said he was not aware of how long Khumalo had traded in the area, but that he had been there for “a long time”.
Allegations of assault by the JMPD have been made for many years by motorists and hawkers, but until the attack on Ndlovu, damning video footage taken by a bystander had not been provided.
It’s alleged that Ndlovu was attacked when he went to the aid of the elderly Khumalo, who was beaten and assaulted by the officers. Khumalo had asked for a receipt after the officers impounded window frames that he sold.
Khumalo, who was allegedly punched and kicked repeatedly by officers, suffered head injuries and sustained a broken finger. He was taken to Tembisa Hospital for treatment.
Ndlovu is seen in the cellphone video footage on the ground while four officers repeatedly kick and punch him. Ndlovu was treated for injuries to his face, body, arms and legs.
Khumalo's two sons, Ananias and Michael, said they were also assaulted during the incident.
Minnaar was quoted as saying in the Sunday Times piece that exposed the assault: "We can clearly see the officers trampling on the civilian. They are not allowed to trample on a civilian."
A senior Johannesburg official confirmed an investigation had been launched. “[On Wednesday 2 May) the JMPD received footage from a TV station and this is to be used as an additional exhibit in the investigation process,” he said.
The South African National Civic Organisation has condemned the attack, saying that just as attacks on metro police were unacceptable, so was the attack of “innocent civilians” by uniformed “thugs”.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Johannesburg shadow minister for safety and security Mervyn Cirota criticised the lack of response from the metro or the office of Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau on the matter, saying he was concerned this complaint, like many others, would be swept under the carpet.
“The failure to respond appropriately to this thuggery by JMPD members shows a very unhealthy and arrogant approach to this type of behaviour, and creates a very negative perception that the city administration, and in particular JMPD officials, are not answerable or accountable to the citizens of Johannesburg, a situation the DA find deplorable and totally unacceptable,” he said.
“The DA plans to immediately raise the issue in the metro’s section 79 safety committee [the oversight committee] and demand an immediate and appropriate response.”
City of Joburg responds to incident
Johannesburg spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said on Friday that the metro condemned any possible violence by business unit members (JMPD), as much as it condemns corruption by the members, but could not comment on the case until the investigation had been completed because it wanted the individual business units to take accountability for abuse within their sector.
“We are encouraging them to be accountable to line management. The metro is waiting for the report and if more work is required, then we will return it to the unit for further investigation.
“Johannesburg is taking the matter very seriously,” he said.
“We have made an appeal for the public and staff from business units to come forward to report wrong-doing, and for business units to act promptly when incidents of this nature are reported.
“We want to encourage them to do this instead of hiding behind the City of Johannesburg and saying they are first waiting for us to intervene.”
The mayor’s office yesterday referred queries on the case to the City of Johannesburg.
Lewis said it was vital that the four officers who conducted a sustained attack on an unarmed hawker are “not merely disciplined, but charged and jailed”.
Read Corruption Watch’s full JMPD report here.