Authorities say they are still questioning the traffic officials involved in a violent confrontation with a motorist on Monday. 51 year old Zainodien Allie was thrown to the ground by 7 traffic cops, in an incident filmed on camera that has since gone viral. Allie was assisting his elderly uncle in Mountview who had been pulled over by traffic cops for using a cellphone behind the wheel.
According to his version of events, Zainodien proceeded to remove his uncle’s simcard from his phone and handed the phone to the officer who then told him not to intervene in the matter. Zainodien then decided to leave but backup traffic officers were called and surrounded his car. Things escalated as he was accosted by the traffic officers and then arrested.
The complainant has laid a charge of police brutality with SAPS, and lodged a complaint with the city of Cape Town’s executive director of safety and security, who will initiate disciplinary proceedings.
The city’s JP Smith said the traffic cops have a different version of what happened.
“We take a dim view on violent or brutal conduct by our staff. But at the same time, there are strict proceedings that govern how these disciplinary proceedings work. The staff have the right to have their version heard. I have heard their version of the facts and it is substantially different from that described by the complainant. So we will have to follow the process and see what the facts are, before appropriate action can be taken.”
According to Smith, the traffic officers allege that they tried to impound the cellphone but the motorist declined to do so and handed the phone to a third party who came to his aid.
“This family member drove away with the phone and they had to follow the relative to the fuel station, who then resisted arrest. That’s at least party of the story I have been told,” said Smith.
In terms of their mandate, traffic officers are allowed to make arrests of motorists. Smith said there are certain circumstances under which if a traffic officer gives a lawful instruction which is disobeyed, the motorist can be arrested under the Criminal Procedure Act.
One of these examples is when motorists refuse to give their details, resisting arrest once the citizen has been given a lawful instruction and failure to comply, driving under the influence of alcohol or reckless and negligent driving.
The legislation prescribes circumstances under which the officer may and should perform an arrest to detain a person and to compel a court appearance.
“Officers must use [this power] with care and not abuse it. When it is abused, we will take the necessary sanction. We have a firm track record of action against staff who abuse their powers and do wrong,” said Smith.
At the same time, he urged citizens not to get into situations where an officer is pushed into effect an arrest.
“When there is a resistance against an arrest, you put the officer in a situation where he has to leave the matter as it becomes too unpleasant. The officer must act fairly and consistently in their conduct and due cognisance of the rights of the person. So if an officer gives you an instruction, obey that instruction,” he said.
“Any citizen found to have been wrongfully arrested has legal recourse, which could lead to financial compensation for the claimant. But don’t put yourself in a situation where there has to be a physical struggle between the officer and yourself.”
All traffic officers found to have abused his powers will “face the music” in an external disciplinary process. If SAPS declines to prosecute, the City could still pursue its own action against the officials.
Smith said the City’s traffic officers are trained in conflict resolution but not everyone can handle the level of provocation they are subjected to at times.
“If the officer does something wrong, complain about it in a reasonable manner so we can investigate the issue. We take discipline seriously and we are serious about the rights of the people in the city. But equally, staff members who are also part of this citizenry must enjoy equal protection under the law in terms of fair processes of complaint.” VOC