Former SABC radio sports producer Paul Nthoba experienced hell when he was allegedly insulted and assaulted by members of the SA Police Service (SAPS) on Friday afternoon in Ficksburg in the Free State.
Nthoba, who also worked as an SABC news journalist and as a newsreader for Lesedi FM, claimed that he was turned into a punching bag by six police officers in his hometown of Meqheleng, Ficksburg.
This is the same town where Andries Tatane was shot dead by police officers during a service delivery protest in 2011.
The seven police officers accused of his assault and murder were acquitted at the Ficksburg Regional Court in March 2013.
Nthoba, a businessperson and pastor, who recently launched the local community newspaper Mohokare News, where he is the founder and editor, claimed that he was punched, kicked and insulted by bulky police officers who were not happy with his taking their picture.
They grabbed me by my throat and choked me while they tossed me in the air. Then they started punching and kicking me. They grabbed my phone and accused me of trying to snitch on them. They insulted me and even referred to my mother’s private parts
Speaking to City Press from hiding, Nthoba said that he was on assignment for his publication, documenting police visibility in the streets in the fight against the Covid-19 coronavirus, where the police force is managing the situation to make sure that people adhere to the lockdown regulations to minimise the spread of the virus.
“They grabbed me by my throat and choked me while they tossed me in the air. Then they started punching and kicking me. They grabbed my phone and accused me of trying to snitch on them. They insulted me and even referred to my mother’s private parts.
“These cops even took my phone, but I was recording an audio of the incident with another phone,” he said.
City Press is in possession of the audio recording in which Nthoba can be heard screaming and asking the police why they are assaulting him.
He can be heard saying: “This is my phone. Do not assault me. Why are you assaulting me?”
Nthoba said he rushed to the police station, which is a few kilometres from the township, to report the case, but claims that while there the same cops who had roughed him up earlier arrived and continued to threaten and beat him in front of senior police officers in the charge office.
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“These cops threatened me and assaulted me in front of the senior officers while I was there to open the case against them.
"They even discussed among themselves that I should be charged for contravening the Disaster Management Act, and I was thrown into the police holding cells and got released on warning after four hours. I was told that I would need to report to court on August 27.
“I feel threatened. My life is in danger because after I was assaulted in the streets I went to seek sanctuary at the police station and instead I was insulted, intimidated and assaulted in the presence of senior officers.
“I’m currently in hiding with no one to protect me. Who can protect me? Am I on my own? We have thugs roaming our streets with a badge in one hand and a gun in the other.
“I feel helpless and I have nowhere to hide because the borders are closed. I pray to God to save me. He is the only one left for me. Even if they kill me, it will be His will not theirs,” Nthoba said.
His lawyer, Dan Thulo, said: “We are taking the same route [as the Collins Khosa family], as we will be instituting legal action against the police. We will also institute a lawsuit against Police Minister [Bheki Cele] and the SAPS.”
City Press sent an enquiry to Ficksburg police spokesperson Captain Siphumelele Dlamini, who acknowledged that Nthoba was a well-known journalist in the area and that he had opened a case.
We are more deeply disturbed to hear of the abuse and incarceration he subsequently experienced at the Ficksburg Police Station, where he went to lay an assault charge.
“The case is being investigated by [the Independent Police Investigative Directorate],” said Dlamini.
Gauteng conveyor for the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) Hopewell Radebe said: “Sanef is deeply disturbed to hear of the abuse of community media journalist Paul Nthoba by the SAPS in Meqheleng, close to the Lesotho border.
"We are more deeply disturbed to hear of the abuse and incarceration he subsequently experienced at the Ficksburg Police Station, where he went to lay an assault charge.
“Sanef is deeply concerned to hear about this abuse out in the field and, more worryingly, at the police station, the very place where Nthoba had sought refuge.
“Sanef will be taking this matter up with security authorities at the highest level, and with it a list of other abuse charges that have taken place under the lockdown.”