In an alarming incident that has rekindled national debates and concerns around police brutality, four members of the South African Police VIP Unit found themselves under suspension on July 1, 2023. The implicated members were part of the protection detail for Deputy President Paul Mashatile, lending the situation an elevated degree of urgency and gravity. The unit’s notoriety stems from an incident that occurred on the bustling N1 highway in Gauteng province, which is now making waves across the nation.
The incident, caught in stark detail on a dashcam footage provided by an eyewitness, showed a shocking display of violence towards three innocent civilians. The motorists had pulled over to the side of the highway when the members of the VIP Unit descended on them. The video documented one passenger being forcefully dragged from their vehicle and subjected to a brutal assault until they lapsed into unconsciousness. A fellow passenger was not spared the wrath of the unit members either, receiving a barrage of kicks. Meanwhile, the third passenger narrowly escaped the ferocity by scrambling over the guard rail.
During the incident, the members of the VIP Unit were heavily armed, accentuating the severity and intimidation of the assault. The horrific incident ended with the unit members speeding off, leaving the victims battered on the highway.
Despite Deputy President Paul Mashatile not being present in any of the VIP vehicles at the time of the attack, news of this egregious display of violence didn’t take long to reach him. Mashatile swiftly condemned the actions of the VIP Unit in strong terms following the incident’s public emergence.
Regrettably, such alarming episodes have reportedly become commonplace for what is colloquially known as the “blue light brigade”. This nickname references those who are entrusted with the task of safeguarding government officials, but their conduct on the road has been a point of concern for many. AllAfrica, a renowned media outlet, highlighted a 2016 incident where a pedestrian named Solly Moutlana tragically lost his life in a road accident involving the blue light brigade. The implicated unit, which was attached to former President Jacob Zuma’s protection detail, vehemently denied the incident. It’s important to note that such ‘blue light’ incidents have been on a steady rise since 2008, often putting civilians at risk. In many cases, civilians were accused of not yielding the road quickly enough for the VIP convoy, thereby prompting these regrettable incidents.
This most recent episode involving members of the South African Police VIP Unit underscores the pressing need for a closer examination of the brigade’s conduct, for the sake of ensuring the safety and rights of all road users. Public outcry and calls for reform have become increasingly strident, as the nation continues to grapple with the implications of such unchecked authority and the stark abuse of power it can engender.