The South African National Parks (SANParks) has hired an independent investigator to probe the details surrounding the incident which led to renowned South African cyclist Nicholas Dlamini breaking his arm. SANParks acting head of communications Reynold Thakhuli said the investigator will be briefed on Monday morning in terms of the outcomes expected of the probe. The five rangers involved in the altercation have been precautionarily suspended.
A video of the scuffle that took place between Dlamini and the rangers has gone viral and sparked a huge backlash on social media. The footage shows Dlamini’s humerus being cracked by a forceful ranger shoving him up against the side of a SANParks van. Thakhuli said the incident happened when the rangers were notified by officials that a cyclist had entered the park without paying the compulsory fare.
“The park rangers were alerted by the gate official of a cyclist that went into gate 1 of the Silver Mines section of Table Mountain National Park without paying all the mandatory fees and on investigation, they managed to track down Mr. Nic Dlamini and an altercation ensued,” he told VOC Breakfast Beat.
Standard protocol is that whoever partakes in any activities within the national parks is expected to purchase an activity permit. The activity permit is renewable and is valid for a period of twelve months or alternatively a day fare can be paid. Rangers can demand to see the permit at any given time to ensure the safety of park-goers, as criminals with ill-intentions pretend to be cyclists, motorists and even tourists.
“If a person is found in the park without having paid their necessary papers, the rangers are required to stop such an individual and should request that they produce the permit. Cyclist and tourists get stopped and are often asked to produce their permits.”
The video footage was recorded by fellow cyclist Donovan le Cok, who had just arrived at the scene when Dlamini was accosted.
“I got to the scene just at the point where the SANParks official had knocked Nicholas off his bike to check his permit. What they had done is, it’s a downhill to the exit, and they sort of jumped out and grabbed his handlebar to make him stop which made him fall obviously. Nick was quite upset. He was hurt and his bike was damaged. It is quite a shocking thing to encounter when someone tries to grab you off of your bike, something that a criminal does rather than a park ranger,” he said in a statement.
Le Cok said there was an alleged argument that followed, but that Dlamini remained levelheaded.
“At that point, there was a heated discussion with the head ranger. Nick wasn’t aggressive towards him, trying to get away or resisting being detained. The guy just laid into, turned him around, and twisted his arm high above his head. You can hear in the video his arm snap and crack, at which point Nick was just screaming saying ‘my arm’s broken, my arms broken’. They just proceeded to throw him into the back of a van, all the while he is still shouting my arm is broken.”
Le Cok was then requested to stop recording by the park rangers and said permission was not granted to him.
“I had then stopped filming as the rangers were becoming aggressive towards me. They were grabbing at my phone and my hand, so I thought rather than lose my phone and lose the footage, I would just stop recording and put my phone in my pocket. The rangers were all very aggressive to me afterwards as well, even-though I just wanted to check that Nick was okay. I was able to shout to Nick through the van windows to try make sure he was alright and to let him know I would do what I could to help him. As I was up in the mountain with no signal, I cycled back down and I was able get the footage out as soon as I had signal.”
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde visited Dlamini in hospital and has since then expressed his concern and disdain in an official statement released on the day in question.
“There must be consequences for the heavy-handedness with which the SANParks officials reacted in this situation. Their aggression was evident not only in their attitude toward Nic Dlamini, but also towards other cyclists on the scene, who recorded incident. No matter what the circumstances, there is no excuse for this kind of reaction.”
Winde said the incident has exposed the broken relationship between the cycling community and SANParks. He said that his office will be establishing a round table discussion in an effort to repair this relationship.
Winde continues by saying this sore incident undermines Brand South Africa, at a time where the economy cannot afford further damage to its brand and tourism economy.
“SANParks must urgently act to put this situation right and to ensure that no further incidents of a similar nature occur in the future.”
Subsequently, Thakhuli said SANParks have reviewed the video and it will be used as evidence in the report drafted by the appointed private investigator.