The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) is looking into the alleged assault of a journalist from Ficksburg in the Free State. The journalist identified as Paul Nthoba was allegedly assaulted by members of the SAPS on 15 May.
In a statement, Ipid said Nthoba went to the local police station to lodge an assault charge against the officers on the day.
“We were also made aware that the police laid a counter criminal case docket against the journalist. The criminal charge against the journalist is believed to be a contravention of Covid-19 regulations.”
Ipid, which began investigating a criminal case met with Nthoba on Monday at the journalist’s aunt’s place and an agreement was reached for a follow-up meeting the next day.
“However, when our investigator was trying to make contact he could not reach the journalist as his mobile is always off. His relatives are not divulging the complainant’s whereabouts. Up to so far, Ipid is not aware of any danger on the journalist’s life.
“It is important to state that our investigator advised the complainant to call him in case he requires any form of assistance. Ipid is committed that as soon as we find and confirm with him about any imminent danger on his life, we are willing to engage the relevant government stakeholders to arrange for his safety.
Ipid has appealed to the journalist to make contact with their investigators as soon as possible, as this may aid in speeding up investigations.
No arrests have yet been made.
The matter caught the attention of the South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef), who said they were deeply concerned that Nthoba had been forced to flee authorities.
It was alleged that Nthoba was punched, kicked and insulted by the officers who were allegedly not happy with him taking their pictures near the Caledon River.
Nthoba, the editor of the Mohokare News, was at the river on Friday because some locals had complained that policing in the area was too slack.
He said that he is known in the area, and when he saw the officers he thought: “Oh look, that’s a nice shot – there are policemen.”
He took the picture, planning ahead to include it in an article.
“I was going to ask them, ‘how are you doing?’,” he said.
However, he said one of the police officers responded with a deeply offensive swear word, and the tone changed as he told him he felt insulted.
Another officer, who Nthoba regarded as the senior among them, allegedly instructed his colleagues to assault Nthoba.
“That’s when I realised I was going to get a hiding,” he said.
He said it happened too quickly to take a video, but he does have audio of the alleged incident. They allegedly beat him and left him. Nthoba said he then went to the police station to lay a complaint of assault against them.
While he was there, Nthoba said, he tried to take a picture when other officers entered. Nthoba said they objected to this. He claimed he was dragged to a police cell and told he would be charged under the Disaster Management Act.
Sanef said it had a recording of the altercation and was very disturbed by it.