COPS AND PRI­VATE SE­CU­RITY IN UN­HOLY AL­LIANCE

Res­i­dents up in arms as col­lab­o­ra­tion goes awry, with ‘racist’ pri­vate guards tak­ing on po­lice roles

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

A pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pany col­lab­o­rat­ing with a po­lice sta­tion in Mpumalanga is wreak­ing havoc in the small town of Mashish­ing (for­merly Ly­den­burg), where its se­cu­rity guards are ac­cused of tak­ing over po­lice of­fi­cers’ du­ties of ar­rest­ing, de­tain­ing and even charg­ing sus­pects.

Res­i­dents of Thaba Ch­weu Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity claim that the em­ploy­ees of Phoenix Se­cu­rity even stop and then search cars with­out au­tho­ri­sa­tion. They al­lege the se­cu­rity guards tar­get and ha­rass black peo­ple, par­tic­u­larly at night, and de­scribe the com­pany’s op­er­a­tions as rem­i­nis­cent of the for­mer apartheid regime’s in­flux con­trol laws – re­fer­ring to the no­to­ri­ous re­stric­tions of move­ment im­posed on black peo­ple dur­ing apartheid by lim­it­ing their en­try into ur­ban ar­eas.

“Phoenix runs op­er­a­tions dur­ing the night to drive blacks out of town,” said Mandla Mohlala (26), a res­i­dent in Mashish­ing.

Mpumalanga po­lice de­nied that the se­cu­rity com­pany had taken over their work.

How­ever, City Press has seen pho­tos of Phoenix se­cu­rity guards sit­ting be­hind the counter at the town’s po­lice sta­tion, fill­ing in doc­u­ments. An­other photo showed their van with a sus­pect in the back be­ing driven to the po­lice sta­tion.

Mohlala said the se­cu­rity guards ar­rested and de­tained him in po­lice cells on June 2 – a Fri­day night. They had flicked their van’s lights, in­di­cat­ing that he should stop. He was sus­pi­cious of their mo­tives and stopped only once he had ar­rived at a fill­ing sta­tion.

He said the guards told him that he was un­der ar­rest. When he re­fused to climb into their van, they called a se­nior white po­lice of­fi­cer, who helped them shove Mohlala onto the van and take him to the po­lice sta­tion.

“They put me into a po­lice cell and later drove me to a hospi­tal for my blood sam­ple to be drawn to test my al­co­hol level,” Mohlala said.

“All along, po­lice were there, but these guys did ev­ery­thing. I was re­leased early the next morn­ing and was told that I had been charged with reck­less driv­ing, re­sist­ing ar­rest and driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol.”

Mohlala is sched­uled to ap­pear in court on Septem­ber 4. He said he was re­ceiv­ing le­gal ad­vice and planned to sue the po­lice.

Mohlala’s ar­rest was captured on a cell­phone video record­ing that City Press has seen. There were four Phoenix ve­hi­cles and one po­lice sedan at the Cal­tex fill­ing sta­tion. He was taken away in the se­cu­rity com­pany’s van.

“I’m go­ing to f*kken lay charges. They are racists,” he is heard and seen shout­ing from the van.

An­other res­i­dent, Philly Mankgane, said the Phoenix Se­cu­rity guards had also been raid­ing tav­erns and ha­rass­ing pa­trons.

“They go with one black po­lice re­servist. The rest are white. On week­ends, they be­have as if they are traf­fic cops – stop­ping drivers and de­mand­ing their li­cences,” Mankgane said.

Mpumalanga po­lice spokesper­son Bri­gadier Leonard Hlathi de­nied that Phoenix Se­cu­rity had taken over the po­lice’s work.

“Ac­cord­ing to my in­for­ma­tion, we still have the Ly­den­burg SA Po­lice Ser­vice, which is man­aged by po­lice only and not a se­cu­rity com­pany. No one gave a se­cu­rity com­pany author­ity to take over the po­lice’s work,” Hlathi in­sisted.

“Any per­son can per­form a cit­i­zen’s ar­rest. How­ever, such an ar­rest will be com­pleted at the po­lice sta­tion. No one can charge or take a state­ment from a sus­pect other than a trained po­lice of­fi­cial,” he added.

Phoenix Se­cu­rity di­rec­tor Jan­dre Stander said his com­pany had been help­ing the po­lice as part of a crime preven­tion strat­egy called Project Thun­der­storm. He said they were con­sid­er­ing halt­ing their work be­cause of un­fair crit­i­cism.

“We have been at­tacked on so­cial me­dia, and po­lice have said noth­ing. We are no longer go­ing to help,” Stander said.

“The project is reg­is­tered with the po­lice and we were help­ing to fight crimes such as drug deal­ing and the il­le­gal pos­ses­sion of firearms.”

A black po­lice of­fi­cer, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said black of­fi­cers were ex­cluded from the op­er­a­tions in­volv­ing Phoenix.

“We are sur­prised when the Phoenix peo­ple go be­hind the counter. The sta­tion man­age­ment cov­ers up for all their wrong­do­ing,” he said. TALK TO US Do you think it is a good thing for po­lice sta­tions to col­lab­o­rate with pri­vate se­cu­rity com­pa­nies to fight crime? Can they work with­out dis­crim­i­nat­ing against peo­ple due to race? SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word SE­CU­RITY and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50

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